Being good simply won’t cut it for the No. 23 Michigan volleyball team.
Saturday’s game against No. 6 Ohio State was yet another example of how talented the Big Ten is this season, as the Wolverines were defeated, 3-1. Michigan played well, but it still wasn’t enough.
Despite the margin, the match showcased back-and-forth volleyball. As a whole, the game featured many sideouts, and both teams struggled to score consecutive points. It was the Buckeyes, however, who made the final push. In the final two sets, Ohio State twice managed to pull away in extra time and seal back-to-back set victories, 28-26.
“I don’t think anyone had their best night,” said junior outside hitter Abby Cole. “It’s hard when you don’t have that one person going off. Every set was by two points. It’s all about getting two points better this week.”
Despite a solid record, Michigan (5-5 Big Ten, 15-6 overall) finds itself sitting at eighth in Big Ten play.
The Big Ten has been the best conference in women’s volleyball this season, with eight teams ranked in the AVCA Top 25 poll.
“That’s awesome for our conference,” Cole said. “It shows just how tough it is … there’s never an easy win. There’s no guaranteed win or a guaranteed loss. Every night’s a battle.”
Even with consecutive losses to No. 5 Penn State and Ohio State, the Wolverines have stayed positive. Michigan has already eclipsed the number of wins it had in the 2014 season, when Michigan finished with a disappointing 13-17 record.
The Wolverines have made a lot of progress this season, sparked by their 15th-ranked 2015 recruiting class. Michigan coach Mark Rosen believes the team needs to develop, but he doesn’t use youth as an excuse.
“We’re putting a team on the floor that we believe has the best chance to win,” Rosen said. “If they’re young, they still need to be good. We don’t look for moral victories, we look for real victories.”
Rosen believes his team can turn the corner and beat top-ranked teams, but it hasn’t played consistently enough. In tight situations, Michigan has struggled to close sets.
“The Big Ten is the best conference in the country,” Rosen said. “That’s what we signed up for. We know we’re going to play a really good team on Friday and we’re going to play a really good team on Saturday, so we’ve got to be ready to play at that level.
“We don’t feel good about being close. We want to win.”
With upcoming road matches against Northwestern and Illinois — among the bottom teams of the stacked conference — next weekend, the Wolverines look to recuperate and move up in the Big Ten standings.