It all started Aug. 28, 2009.

The Michigan volleyball team hit the road for its first match of the season, against then-No. 3 Nebraska, a perennial powerhouse and three-time NCAA Tournament Champion.

It’s safe to say most thought the Cornhuskers would beat the Wolverines. After the first set went Michigan’s way, some spectators probably called it a fluke. After two, it was a trend. Three in a row, well, that was just domination.

David swept Goliath, so to speak — on his home court.

That was only the beginning for Michigan. The team won 11 of its next 12 matches before starting Big Ten play, eventually finishing tied for fourth in the conference.

The Wolverines won 27 matches this season — their best since 1981. They went to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history before losing to No. 3 Hawaii in three sets.

“This season, back in May, this team set high goals for themselves and they’ve achieved those things,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “A lot of teams out there say, ‘We want to do this, we want to do that.’ But are they willing to put the work in and the effort in to get there? And this team did that.”

The Wolverines did it in style, establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the nation.

After this weekend, college volleyball dynasty Penn State has won 108 of its 113 sets this year. Of those five losses, two came at the hands of Michigan.

The Wolverines were up on the Lady Lions 2-1 back on Oct. 16 before losing in a five-set thriller. It was the only time all season the Lady Lions — who beat California on Saturday to earn their 100th consecutive win — have been pushed to the five-set match limit.

Talk about earning some respect.

“The seniors have put this program on the map and they have changed the standards for what Michigan volleyball is,” junior setter Lexi Zimmerman said. “We’re still creating that image, and we’re definitely not comfortable where we’re at, but we’re headed in the right direction. This program is getting better every year, which is something to be proud of.”

It’s obvious Zimmerman doesn’t want the program or her teammates to become complacent, which is a sign of her maturity and leadership.

But Zimmerman should feel comfortable about the program’s current position.

In each of her three years in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines have increased their win total and have reached at least the Sweet 16.

“We’ve created this culture of expecting to win and advancing in the tournament,” senior right side hitter Megan Bower said. “It didn’t come easy, and it took a lot of work. This senior class has really shown good leadership and brought Michigan along with them. We’re not just on the map. We’re on the top of that map.”

During the Wolverines’ match against the Cornhuskers over three months ago, the two commentators were both Nebraska fans. It was obvious from their tone and sufficient knowledge of the Cornhusker team.

After Michigan won the opening two sets, those commentators were at a loss for words. They tried in vain to describe a team they knew nothing about.

After the Wolverines’ season, it’s a sure bet the media will know who Michigan is next fall.

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