This weekend, the Michigan volleyball team hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its history, and Crisler Arena was unwelcoming to opponents as the Wolverines advanced to the Sweet 16 of the tournament for the first time.
The berth came thanks in part to a combined 33 kills in both games from senior Katie Bruzdzinski and a combined 77 assists from freshman Lexi Zimmerman.
In the first round, Michigan met Miami (Ohio) – the Mid America Conference Champion. The Wolverines came out strong after a slow start in game one with a 13-3 run to take a solid 22-12 advantage that they would never let go of, eventually stomping the RedHawks 30-16.
Game two was more competitive early on with five lead changes before either team had 10 points. But Michigan quickly pulled away, building up a 24-12 lead going into a Miami (Ohio) timeout. The Wolverines would close out the RedHawks with a 30-18 win. Bruzdzinski and junior Beth Karpiak had five kills each in the game and finished with 19 and 13 kills on the night, respectively.
Michigan jumped out to a 13-5 lead in game three, but then Miami (Ohio) gradually started to creep in. The RedHawks started to take advantage of the Wolverines’ mistakes, eventually cutting their deficit to 23-22. Bruzdzinski then reenergized the Crisler crowd with a service ace to give Michigan a 26-23 lead, which gave it enough of an edge for a 30-27 win.
“In the third game, we didn’t get nervous,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “We just got a little relaxed and they were at a point where they had nothing to lose, which put pressure on us. Katie did a good job of serving us back into the game.”
Michigan took on No. 21 Colorado State Saturday night in a match expected to be much closer. The Rams won the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament titles.
Michigan jumped out to a 15-9 lead in the first game and never trailed at any point throughout the game. Helped out with four kills from Bruzdzinski and four digs from senior Stesha Selsky, the Wolverines controlled the tempo on their way to a 30-24 win that took less than half an hour to finish.
In the second game, the Wolverines pounced on the Rams, building a seven-point lead, 20-13, but Colorado State didn’t go quietly. The Rams scored six-straight points and eventually took a 27-26 lead. The Crisler crowd, which was considerably smaller than the previous night’s, turned up the volume right behind the Rams end of the floor, aiding Michigan to a 30-27 win.
“The crowd wasn’t as big a factor compared to last night because we were used to it,” Rosen said. “Tonight, because of the weather, we didn’t have as many fans show up, but it’s still better to have the fans cheering for you than the other team.”
Game three featured five ties early on before Michigan seized control in a 5-0 run to take a 19-13 advantage. After this point, Michigan never led by less than four for the rest of the game, scoring points at will to finish off the sweep of the Rams with a 30-23 win. Michigan will play Penn State, who beat the Wolverines twice already in the regular season.
“I think it’s great (making the Sweet 16),” said Bruzdzinski. “I don’t think about losing to (Penn State) twice. I think we’re just going to go out there and play hard.”