It was fitting on Saturday that Michigan freshman outside hitter Carrie Ritchie scored the final point in a 3-0 rout of Northwestern (4-12 Big Ten, 8-15 overall), 30-17, 30-20 and 30-21.
“I think one of the girls” goals was for me not to call a timeout tonight, and they accomplished it,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “I just thought the intensity level was phenomenal.”
Ritchie holds two Ohio state high school volleyball records one for most kills in a match (37), and the other for most kills in a single season (404). For much of the season, Ritchie has been a utility player put into games to spark the team with one of her huge, spiraling jump serves. In the past couple weeks though, Ritchie”s impressive and consistent play has earned her much more playing time. Many have doubted that Ritchie could play front row because she is considered short as volleyball players go at 5-foot-10.
“I just want to prove that I can play in the front row despite my size, which is what everyone said would keep me from being able to,” Ritchie said. “It took me a while to get comfortable and get into it, but I felt good once I did.”
On Friday, in Michigan”s 3-2 loss to No. 6 Wisconsin, Ritchie had five kills on eight attacks, and a team-leading 17 digs. Against Northwestern, Ritchie added nine kills and 10 digs. Even more impressive was the fact that on the weekend, Ritchie only had a combined two errors.
Ritchie didn”t beat the Wildcats single-handedly though. Freshman Jennifer Gandolph, sophomore Erin Moore and junior Katrina Lehman also had impressive performances. Gandolph, Moore and Lehman added 14, nine and eight kills respectively. Gandolph also contributed 14 digs on defense.
The win over Northwestern ended a three game skid for Michigan.
Friday”s loss against the Badgers was the most upsetting all season. The Wolverines were up two games to none in a best of five match, and it looked as though an upset was brewing in Ann Arbor. It wasn”t to be though as Wisconsin would take the next three games to steal the win. In Friday”s action, Gandolph posted a career-high 22 kills.
“We played well today, but we need to finish it out,” Moore said.
Michigan (8-8, 12-11) needs at least two of their final four games to make the NCAA Tournament. Wins won”t come easy either as they will be facing some of the nation”s best teams in No. 9 Ohio State, No. 13 Penn State and No. 24 Illinois.
“We have four matches left, and we really need to take care of some business to push into the postseason,” Rosen said.