The Michigan women’s volleyball team’s offseason was riddled with losses.
The Wolverines’ all-time leader in kills, Katie Bruzdzinski, graduated along with three other starters, leaving coach Mark Rosen with four huge holes to fill.
Michigan also had to rebound from its heartbreaking loss to eventual National Champion Penn State, which knocked them out of the NCAA tournament.
But this weekend, the Wolverines weren’t focused on their offseason losses, only on their six straight victories to open this season.
No. 25 Michigan proved inexperience wasn’t a problem at the Georgia Tech Invitational on Sunday. In their first true test of the season, Michigan toppled the host Yellow Jackets, 3-2.
“The match could’ve gone either way two or three times,” Rosen said. “But somehow, we always managed to pull it out.”
The Wolverines (6-0) were down two sets to one, but reeled off a convincing victory in the fourth set, 25-20, leading the entire set.
Georgia Tech (5-1) narrowed Michigan’s lead to 12-11 in the fifth set before juniors Veronica Rood and Megan Bower stepped up with two clutch kills to give Michigan the victory, 15-13.
“They’re carrying a big load right now,” Rosen said of the upperclassmen. “They’re really playing like veterans. I’m proud of how they’re competing.”
But it was sophomore setter Lexi Zimmerman who was the difference-maker for the Wolverines. Zimmerman had a season high 51 assists against the Yellow Jackets, raising her season total to 218 through six games.
Without last year’s four seniors, Zimmerman’s game had to adapt with the new Wolverine offensive attack.
“She doesn’t have the same tools around her as she did last year,” Rosen said. “She used to just have to deliver to all the great players around her, but this year she really has to carry the load.”
Zimmerman’s clutch performance earned her the Invitational MVP as she set the pace for the Wolverines’ successful attack.
In the weekend’s other two matches, Michigan pounded Georgia State and Arkansas, both 3-0.
Offensively, the Wolverines answered a lot of questions this weekend about their ability to close out points without Bruzdzinski’s booming spike. Bruzdzinski’s replacement, senior middle blocker Beth Karpiak, silenced any questions with a team-high 16 kills against Georgia Tech.
The team is still very young, with four freshmen playing significant roles. But with Big Ten competition on the horizon, Rosen is optimistic about the team’s future.
“We’re pretty early in the learning curve,” Rosen said. “But watching the girls compete this weekend, it’s clear we have a lot of potential to be better.”