After following a 13-0 start with a four-game skid to begin Big Ten play, the Michigan volleyball team may change its lineup.
Sophomore Kerry Hance was replaced at libero by freshman Megan Bower before the second game of the Wolverines’s loss to Wisconsin Saturday, despite starting the entire season at libero.
Michigan coach Mark Rosen didn’t see a significant difference between the two in the game and is not sure who will be the libero this weekend when Michigan hosts Northwestern and Illinois.
The player who does not start at libero will be the defensive specialist, a role nearly identical to libero.
But the libero is in the game for five-and-a-half rotations, while the defensive specialist plays only three, so Rosen anticipates the two could alternate between those positions based on who is playing well at the time.
According to Rosen’s assessment of the three main skills required of a libero, Hance has been slightly better at passing, while Bower has been a slightly better defensive player. Their serving has been fairly equal.
Hance has been expecting a battle for the position all along. Junior Stesha Selsky, last year’s libero, beat out redshirt sophomore Mara Martin to start at setter, but Hance was ready to challenge Selsky if necessary.
She also realized all four freshmen on the team (Bower, Cassie Petoskey, Veronica Rood and Kirstin Wagner) had the skill set to compete for the libero position.
“I’ve been competing the whole time,” Hance said. “.I knew Megan Bower was going to want to be on the court, like every other player on the team.”
And Bower has played like she wants more playing time.
“Bower’s done a very good job defensively, and it’s given her more opportunities because of that,” Rosen said. “She’s also been getting consistently better as a passer and developing in that role. That’s certainly given us the opportunity to try to start using her a little more. That’s probably the biggest factor in the whole equation.”
But Hance is in no hurry to return to the defensive specialist role she played last year. She’s been practicing with associate head coach Leisa Rosen in the mornings, working on her digging ability.
Bower has missed some practice time this week with strep throat, but played last weekend with the condition.
“If we were playing (Wednesday) it would (be a factor in playing time),” Rosen said. “But we’re not playing (Wednesday). We’re playing on Friday and Sunday.
“We have to wait and see and see if they’re both healthy and then who we feel like is going to make the most impact on that given night. . The sickness has nothing to do with it. She’ll be fine to play. She’ll be ready to go.”