Going into Madison on Saturday night, Michigan had just lost its Big Ten opener to Northwestern in a grueling five-game match, plagued by mistakes. Michigan needed to regroup and play focused against last year”s runner-up in the National Championship.
The Badgers, however, proved too much for Michigan, defeating them in four games (30-13, 30-24, 24-30, 30-17).
For the second match of the weekend, the Wolverines again committed more errors than their opponent. This time, however, Wisconsin earned everything they got, whereas at Northwestern, it was merely the team”s failure to execute.
Michigan was unable to overcome the Badgers and their star senior Sherisa Livingston.
“Sherisa Livingston is the best athlete in the country,” head coach Mark Rosen said. “She is the best athlete I”ve ever seen play volleyball,”
Livingston, a 6-foot-2 dominant force in the middle, contributed to the Badgers” win by leading both teams with19 kills. Livingston”s dominance was reinforced by the entire Wisconsin team, which lost only one game the third to the Wolverines. This was the only game in the match in which Michigan out-hit the Badgers. But this momentum was quickly shattered as Wisconsin powered back in the fourth game and demolished the Wolverines. The Badgers were given tremendous help in the final game of the match, as the Wolverines scored as many errors as they did kills.
Michigan”s brightest star was Jennifer Gandolph. In just her second Big Ten match of the season, Gandolph put up team-highs of 17 kills and 15 digs.
This marks Gandolph”s second double-double of the season the first coming against Pittsburgh and places her third on the team in overall kills and first in overall digs.
“She played great against Wisconsin. I”m proud of that,” Rosen said. “She is the type of player that can dominate a game.”
Gandolph”s efforts, along with sophomore Erin Moore, who was second on the team with 11 kills, were not enough to overcome the 25 errors that the team committed.
Disaster struck time and again as the Wolverines were unable to convert their attacks into points and instead gave away points with numerous errors. This loss capped off a weekend of miscues on the part of the Wolverines.
Against the Wildcats, Michigan committed 38 errors that contributed to a 3-2 loss (21-30, 30-23, 32-34, 30-15, 15-13). This was double its previous average of 19 errors per match.
According to Rosen, the length of the game was a major factor in a troublesome number of errors committed. Of the five games, only one the fourth game was a blowout.
Northwestern was able to dominate the Wolverines and force a fifth game after Michigan had taken a 2-1 advantage in the match.
After falling behind early, the Wolverines were able to tie the game at 6-6. Following that, Northwestern grabbed two points which was enough to carry them on to a 15-13 victory.
These losses taught the team that self-inflicted errors, as much as being out-played by an opponent, can lose a match. The Wolverines also learned that they cannot enter into any game expecting an easy win.
Northwestern was the worst team in the Big Ten last year, but was able to defeat the unprepared Wolverines.
“We learned not to play to the opponent”s level,” Rosen said. “We weren”t playing as aggressively and as motivated as we could.”
Michigan”s inability to consider Northwestern a serious opponent cost them dearly as they are now winless in conference play. But Rosen believes the team learned from this.
“Our team understands that we must be self-motivated,” Rosen said.