The Michigan women’s volleyball team showed this weekend that it is capable of digging deep after a tough loss.
The 22nd-ranked Wolverines (4-8 Big Ten, 16-8 overall) fell to No. 11 Purdue (8-3, 20-3) on Friday night in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss. But Michigan bounced back Saturday night to sweep Indiana in straight sets.
Questions surrounded the Wolverines’ performance on Saturday after their loss to Purdue just 24 hours before. Would they be able to bounce back after another tough loss? Would they be overly ambitious to compensate for the loss and fall prey to mental mistakes? Michigan answered those questions early against Indiana.
The Wolverines got off to an early lead in the first set and won relatively easily due in large part to their stellar defense. Michigan was able to dig the ball out consistently on Indiana’s serve, which set up its hitters for kills.
“The hitters are really focusing on eliminating errors,” said senior defensive specialist Michelle McMahon. “If it’s not a good set, they’re trying to put the ball in play. And on the flip side of that, the defense is trying to keep every ball alive.”
The defensive effort that the Wolverines put forth in practice clearly carried over into the game against the Hoosiers. Michigan ended the night with 49 digs and 43 kills.
It is fair to say though that the Friday match did not go quite as smoothly.
The Wolverines dominated the first set against the Boilermakers. Michigan defended well — tallying 13 digs to Purdue’s eight — and played with confidence and enthusiasm.
But the tables turned in the second set when Purdue picked up its service intensity and Michigan was unable to match it. The Boilermakers registered 19 digs to the Wolverines’ 14.
The game went down to the wire in the fifth set. Michigan and Purdue exchanged leads until the very end of the match. The Wolverines had multiple match points at the end of the set but were unable to convert their opportunities. Though Michigan led the set in digs 14-9, many of the opportunities created by those digs were blocked by Boilermakers’ front line.
Still, the Wolverines were upbeat about their performance against the Indiana and were content with leaving their losses behind, repeatedly echoing that they will be a different and better team in the second half of the season.
“The second half of the Big Ten is a new season,” said McMahon. “We wanted to really come out strong with a new team, a new attitude and a new identity.”