The Michigan volleyball team might only be 13-0 in the official standings, but the players feel like they’re 14-0.
For the first time in years, every player on the team passed her preseason fitness test.
“We joked about it or talked about it, that test is like our first match, and we won our first match so we got off on a good start,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “You lose your first match, it’s tough. Now you’re already on your heels a little bit. I think the girls answered the first test of the year and the first challenge, and then I think it’s easy to get some momentum going off of that.”
Prior to each season, Michigan teams must pass a fitness test. For the volleyball team it consists of two elements.
The first is the ability to jump and touch a point within a half of an inch of the point they were able to jump and touch at the end of last season.
The second is to do five 300-yard shuttles (50 yards and back three times in a row) with a 90-second break between each rep at splits tailored to each individual player (typically a freshman must complete the test in a total of 325 seconds – or 65 seconds per shuttle).
“It is a good, true test of whether they’re in shape, ready to go,” Rosen said. “If everybody passed it like this year, it now allows us to go OK, we can get in the gym and go a little harder and know that everybody’s in shape to do that. If people don’t pass it, then we know, OK, we’re going to have to go a little slower because people aren’t in as good of shape as they need to be in, and we’ve got to get them there or we’re going to get somebody hurt.”
Said senior Megan Bowman: “We came in, and everyone passed their fitness test, which is unheard of in Michigan history. Even for soccer, field hockey, all of them – I don’t know any team where everyone has passed the fitness test.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that the preseason success followed a rough season for the Wolverines. After consecutive second-round NCAA Tournament appearances, they failed to qualify for the Tournament for the first time since 2001.
“By the time that year was over, we all just wanted to be done and over it and start fresh,” Bowman said. “And so as soon as spring came, we all worked extra hard. I mean that was probably the toughest spring I’ve been through and I’ve been here forever.”
A few position changes were also made in the spring season. Because the team was playing without its departed seniors and incoming freshman, several players had to play different positions than normal for the team to compete. Junior Lyndsay Miller moved from middle blocker to the left side, junior Stesha Selsky became the setter and sophomore Kerry Hance took over the libero spot vacated by Selsky. Rosen liked the new look and took the changes into this season.
The players’ physical condition only made making the positional adjustments in the fall easier.
“I think you can tell we were all pretty bummed about how last season went,” Selsky said. “So in order to start to fix that or to start to have a better season, we needed to come in very strong and very in shape and ready to go in order to get better at volleyball — not having to get in shape and, at the same time, get better at volleyball. So I feel that, because everyone made the shuttle and made their fitness test, that we sort of proved that everyone was ready to roll.”
And things have certainly been rolling so far. The official 13-0 start is the best in team history. The Wolverines will look to extend it this weekend against Indiana on Friday and No. 11 Purdue on Saturday in a Maize Out game.