After losing three straight matches in the Hawaiian Airlines Classic, the Michigan volleyball team turned its season around by winning the Pepsi Volleyball Challenge in Ann Arbor this weekend. This came as no surprise to head coach Mark Rosen.
“I saw it in warm-ups, there was a hunger that you love to see,” Rosen said. “Some teams would go 0-3 and look dejected and feel sorry for themselves. This team was very, very hungry tonight.”
In the tournaments first two matches, Michigan easily defeated Pittsburgh and Eastern Michigan in straight games. The Wolverines disposed of the Panthers 30-18, 30-20, 30-27 on Friday night.
On Saturday afternoon, Michigan defeated the Eagles in three consecutive 30-18 games.
Freshman Jennifer Gandolph had 31 kills and led the team with 38 digs over the weekend.
“One of our major goals was to win the tournament and sweep everybody,” Gandolph said.
Michigan (3-3) faced its toughest opponent, an undefeated Georgia team, in the last match of the tournament.
From the beginning, it was obvious that the two teams were well matched. Knotted at 29-29, an attack error by Georgia put the Wolverines up 30-29. The team needed just one point to win the game and take a 1-0 lead in the match. That point came from Gandolph as she slammed a kill past a Georgia player.
“I like winning big points or the last point of the game,” said Gandolph. “I”m hungry for the ball.”
Finding themselves down a game to the Wolverines, in the second game to hand the Wolverines a 22-30 loss. Michigan actually had its highest attack percentage (.370) of the match, but Georgia played its best game, with an astonishing attack percentage (.593) of its own.
After the intermission, the Wolverines came out with renewed fire, winning the game 30-19. They played better defense and dominated the net to secure a win.
Rosen”s major changes for the third game were all on the defensive side of the ball.
“If you can dig a couple of balls, you can force the other team to make more errors and to doubt themselves a little bit,” Rosen said in response to the team”s mere six digs in the second game.
Lisa Gamalski won the game with a service ace, putting Michigan up two games to one. The Wolverines needed one more game to win the match and the tournament.
Again down and this time backed against a wall, Georgia tried to muster another win against the Wolverines. It looked as if the Bulldogs might be able to pull off the win when they were leading 22-17. But Michigan would not be denied.
Leading 23-20, the Bulldogs became sloppy, committing four straight errors that allowed Michigan to take the lead.
Gamalski, the setter, came up big again. She secured the tourney win by tapping the ball over the net, instead of setting it.
All-Tournament Team: Four Wolverines Katrina Lehman, Chantel Reedus, Gamalski, and sophomore Erin Moore were named to the All-Tournament Team. Moore was also named the tournament”s Most Valuable Player for her 29 kills, 31 digs and overall play.
“There is no doubt she is a very special player,” Rosen said. “Erin is doing a great job, she is learning the game very quickly.”