Saturday night’s loss in State College marked the end of a disappointing first half of Big Ten play for the women’s volleyball team.

No. 9 Penn State (8-2 Big Ten, 15-5 overall) swept No. 15 Michigan in three sets, which brought Michigan’s conference record to 3-7.

Every time the Wolverines lose it’s the same story— they weren’t pursuing the ball aggressively, they made too many errors and when the game has been on the line they crumbled on both sides of the net, unable to win the crucial points to put the game away.

At this time last season, Michigan boasted a winning record entering the second batch of Big Ten games. One thing is the result against Penn State. In fact, the Wolverines have not beaten the Nittany Lions since 2002.

But history is not what won this game for Penn State.

After the four-set loss on the road to Michigan State last Wednesday, Michigan coach Mark Rosen knew his team needed to make some major adjustments if it hoped to compete against the Nittany Lions — namely limiting attack errors. The Wolverines managed to cut them in half from the first match to the second, but not enough to pull out the win.

While players like senior middle blocker Courtney Fletcher felt a noticeable improvement between the two matches, Michigan continued to struggle with closing out its sets against Penn State.

“It came down to the last five points of the match,” Fletcher said. “We just didn’t finish. We backed off instead of just pouncing on them like we should, but I think we made great improvements from the game against Michigan State.”

Despite the losing record and the multiple upsets the Wolverines have fallen victim to this season, Rosen stands by his team and believes it has the capability to turn this season around.

“I thought that there were times tonight where we were playing at a really high level against a very good team,” Rosen said. “But at the end of the day, you have to find a way to win those critical points. We didn’t do enough of that tonight, and it cost us.”

On Friday, Michigan will run the Big Ten gauntlet again with a match against Purdue — the team that toppled the Wolverines’ undefeated season when they met in West Lafayette back in September. At this point in the season, the honeymoon is over. All the teams in the Big Ten have seen Michigan’s new freshman setter Lexi Dannemiller firsthand. They’ve found ways around the new blocking schemes and they’ve taken care to carefully document the intricacies of the revamped offense. The mystique is gone and Fletcher doesn’t think twice about it.

“We haven’t ever really been stopped,” Fletcher said. “I think we get in trouble when we make our own errors. The teams that know us well know that we run a fast offense and we have great hitters all the way around the court. If we can just cut down our errors, then it won’t matter how well a team knows us because we’ll be coming at them from every angle. We now have a chip on our shoulder. It’s time to go after some people.”

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