Momentum heading into the late stages of a season has won many teams championships, it’s a wonder why people are still surprised when it happens.
The 2011 Connecticut men’s basketball team stormed through the Big East Tournament, winning five games in five days before winning six more in a row en route to a national championship.
The 2011 New York Giants sat at 7-7 in Week 15 before winning their final two games and sneaking into the playoffs, only to take down the heavily-favored New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
And the 2012 Los Angeles Kings, the eighth and final team in the Western Conference playoffs, obliterated the rest of the field in one of the more dominating Stanley Cup runs in NHL history.
Peaking at the right time is everything — and that’s just what the Michigan women’s volleyball team is doing.
Since dropping three straight matches from Oct. 17-26, the Wolverines have won five consecutive matches, including 12 straight sets. One of the reasons behind the success has been the play of sophomore Lexi Dannemiller, who has won back-to-back Big Ten setter of the week awards.
“I think me playing well helps the team play well,” said Dannemiller, who is fourth in the conference in assists per set. “If my passes aren’t good, then the hitters can’t play well. Right now, I’m putting them in good spots and they’re finishing.”
One of the big turnarounds for Dannemiller and the Wolverines has been a fresh mindset and outlook on the court. After failing to recover from 12 consecutive dropped points against Purdue on Oct. 26, Michigan turned to sports psychologist Greg Dale in an effort to stay focused.
“(Greg) came in before our match with Nebraska and helped us with things we were struggling with,” Dannemiller said. “He worked with us on letting things go and to help us … not get frustrated.”
Whatever he told them worked. The Wolverines’ new psyche helped them to a 9-7 record in the Big Ten — already one more win than they had last season, with four conference games remaining — and has them poised to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. And that road to success will ultimately ride on the production of Dannemiller down the stretch.
“(My play right now) is a way to know that we’re doing well,” Dannemiller said. “It gives our team confidence to trust each other and trust what we’re doing on the court to win.”
With all four of Michigan’s remaining regular season games away from Cliff Keen Arena, the Wolverines understand what it’s going to take to finish the season on a high note. With a high seed in the NCAA Tournament up for grabs, Michigan expects nothing less than to take care of business, starting Friday night at Northwestern.
“We want to win out,” Dannemiller added. “That’s doable.”