Spurts of intense cheering followed by bouts of focused silence characterized a thrilling fifth set that saw six lead changes and eight ties.
The crowd couldn’t help it. It was the first five-set match the No. 16 Michigan volleyball team played all season. Despite an early three-point deficit, the Wolverines clawed their way out thanks to a service ace from junior setter MacKenzi Welsh and kills from freshman outside hitter Paige Jones, junior outside hitter Sydney Wetterstrom and senior outside hitter Carly Skjodt.
Michigan took the lead, but the teams fought a back and forth battle. Indiana then regained some momentum and scored three of the next four points, bringing the game to match point. But, the Wolverines prevented one match point on account of Skjodt’s kills and persisted through another after a Hoosier attack error was held up after review.
Then it happened again. Another kill from Skjodt coupled with an Indiana attack error gave Michigan the victory, 16-14.
“I would like to set Carly as much as I can,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “That was certainly the game plan. At the end we made sure that was our game plan; she’s our senior.”
Skjodt effectively bolstered the Wolverines’ offense, achieving a career-high 71 swings and committing only four errors while hitting .352 en route to her personal-best 29 kill total that included six kills in the deciding set. And to top off the career night, she added 10 digs for the 20th double-double of her career.
Indiana started the first set strong with a 3-0 run, which Michigan countered with its own four-point run. Still, no team gained an advantage, until a 5-1 run allowed the Hoosiers to take a three-point lead. Indiana then quickly gained an additional point — emphasizing its new edge. The Wolverines called a timeout. Even with 10 kills from Skjodt in this set, Michigan’s .082 hitting percentage could not combat the Hoosiers fierce momentum. Indiana won the first set, 25-19.
Between the first and second sets, the Wolverines appeared to find their stride and momentum. They opened with a carefully balanced offensive attack comprised of a .351 team hitting percentage that stems from kills mounted by a variety of players, such as Jones, Welsh, Skjodt and sophomore middle back Kiara Shannon. Following a kill by Wetterstrom paired with a Hoosier attack error, Michigan secured a lead, which it held for the rest of the set. The Wolverines won the second set, 25-19.
Indiana came back in the third set with a fraction of its momentum. Though the Hoosiers jumped out to an early lead, they soon fell prey to a serving streak from Skjodt and a series of attack errors. Michigan enjoyed this lead for a time, but Indiana worked from behind and regained its former lead. In response, the Wolverines called a timeout. After the timeout, freshman middle back Kayla Bair fired up the team with a kill succeeded by three more during a 10-2 run that allowed Michigan to take the third set.
This fiery spirit persisted into the fourth set. The Wolverines consistently maintained a four-point lead. Despite this, Indiana managed to cut the gap, rack up four points in a row and take the lead. Michigan attempted a comeback, but Hoosier Breana Edwards closed the game with three kills. This play sent the Wolverines and Hoosiers into a thrilling fifth set.
The crowd, stunned by Indiana’s comeback, cheered nervously as they prepared themselves for the game-deciding set ahead.
But the Wolverines, led by Skjodt, made sure the crowd went home happy.
“These guys competed really well,” Rosen said. “You know, when the match was on the line and we needed big points, we came through.”