This weekend marked the last homestand for the Michigan volleyball team against No. 8 Ohio State and No. 4 Penn State. For the four Michigan seniors — Sarah Allen, Alicia Boswell, Lisa Gamalski and Jennifer Gandolph — Saturday’s game against the Nittany Lions would be the last time they would suit up for the hometown crowd.
The Wolverines could not pull off an upset this weekend, falling in three games to both the Buckeyes (30-28, 30-24, 30-17) and the Nittany Lions (30-26, 31-29, 30-23).
After Saturday’s game, the evening turned emotional as the Michigan volleyball family said a tearful good-bye to the four seniors. As each member of the quartet was introduced with her parents, she stood and listened to what coach Mark Rosen had to say about about her.
“I’m just proud of how well everyone did,” Gamalski said. “I’m going to miss this.”
On Saturday, the Wolverines came out of the gate sprinting in game one against the Nittany Lions. Led by sophomore Erin Cobler, who scored three kills and a service ace in the first game, Michigan built a 10-4 lead over Penn State. The Nittany Lions fought back to cut the lead down to three at 10-7. But Michigan soon led 13-9 — its second largest lead of the day.
Both teams began to play sloppily from that point on, committing multiple errors. But Penn State’s experience exposed what has become Michigan’s biggest weakness since Allen was injured against Purdue on Nov. 6 — passing.
“Our best passer is out,” Rosen said in reference to Allen. “We’re still kind of getting used to that. At the same time we need to be able to step up to that challenge.”
There were six lead changes the rest of the way as errors prevented either team from running away. Cobler scored a point pulling Michigan within one, 27-26. The Nittany Lions then answered back with kills from senior Syndie Nadeau and freshman Kate Price and a block from sophomore Cassy Salyer to win the game 30-26.
Game two was more of the same. Both teams committing 11 errors, preventing anyone from taking a large lead. Michigan was able to tie the game at 15 when Gamalski made a block, but Penn State outscored the Wolverines 10-5 from that point to take the biggest lead of the game for either team, 25-20.
Michigan trailed 29-25 after a Salyer kill, but dug deep and made a huge rally, — led by Gandolph — to tie the game at 29. The senior notched a kill and two huge blocks, including the game-tying block that sent the record-setting crowd of 2,223 — the second-largest crowd in Michigan history — into a frenzy.
After a Penn State timeout, the Nittany Lions recorded back-to-back kills to win game two, 31-29.
The Wolverines dropped an ugly game three, 30-23. Penn State adjusted and committed just three errors to Michigan’s eight.
“In game three, I felt the errors came more out of emotion,” Rosen said. “(The seniors) put in a lot of hard work in the last four or five years, and to see it slip away at the end is tough.”
The weekend’s action started Friday when the eighth-ranked Buckeyes visited Cliff Keen Arena. Games one and two were very close as Michigan gave Ohio State all that it could handle.
But in game three, the Buckeyes were too much to handle for a Wolverine team that looked dazed and confused and committed 10 errors in dropping the final game and the match.
“Ohio State is a good team, and they are very experienced,” freshman Stesha Selsky said. “(Ohio State senior) Stacey Gordon is a great player, and we tried to contain her tonight.”
Gordon led all players with 18 kills. The Wolverines were led by freshman Katie Bruzdzinski, who had 14 kills.