Michigan volleyball coach Mark Rosen has maintained all along that his team is capable of beating anyone in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines lived up to their coach’s words Saturday night by beating the best, upsetting No. 11 Penn State in five games to win 3-2.
Game five came down to who could catch momentum early as the fifth game is only played up to 15. Things didn’t look good as the Wolverines’ first attack was blocked at the net. But Michigan built a lead with back-to-back kills by Chantel Reedus and setter Lisa Gamalski. Penn State played tough all match, trading games with the Wolverines, but couldn’t muster a comeback as Michigan cruised to a decisive 15-10 win.
“It’s a huge win for the season,” Rosen said. “It impacts the standings a lot. The thing that was so impressive was how our kids handled the emotion. It was up-and-down, ebb-and-flow type of game, and I think our players did a great job of handling our little battles within the match.”
The victory puts Michigan in second place in the conference behind Penn State. It was as low as seventh just several weeks ago. The win was the fourth consecutive win for the team and continues its’ unbeaten streak at home this season.
No sooner did Michigan (8-4 Big Ten, 14-8 overall) win a game in the match than the Nittany Lions pulled themselves back into contention. Michigan put together 22 digs and two blocks, all while limiting the Nittany Lions to just 13 kills on offense. The first game was close and came down to a final attack by Chantel Reedus to give the Wolverines the game 31-29.
Game two was equally close, but this time the Nittany Lions came out the victors, 30-28. Both teams were strong defensively, and as a consequence, neither team hit well. For either team to win, it would have to rely on a string of a couple points at the end of each game.
After intermission, Michigan got out to a run and never looked back. The Wolverines were successful in nearly half of their attacks. Particularly, Jennifer Gandolph and Nicole Poquette shined for the home team. The pair combined for 13 kills in the third game as the Wolverines gave the Nittany Lions all they could handle, beating them 30-20.
“I thought Nicole was really steady. Whenever we needed a big point or dig, she came up with it,” Rosen said.
Penn State could do no wrong in game four. Behind the strong arm of Mishka Levy, the Nittany Lions dominated on both offense and defense, committing only two attack errors and easily winning the game 30-15.