With the Michigan volleyball team, you never quite know what you’re going to get.
The Wolverines are capable of knocking off powerhouse teams like No. 14 Ohio State and No. 4 Penn State, but they’re also capable of dispiriting letdowns, like when they dropped a 3-1 decision to Indiana on Wednesday.
In September, Michigan (9-11 Big Ten, 18-12 overall) beat Indiana, 3-1, making it seem like the Wolverines could handle whatever the Hoosiers (6-14, 16-16) threw at them. With hopes of making the NCAA Tournament still alive, Michigan needed a big performance in Bloomington but got anything but.
A good start to the match was punctuated by quality play from junior middle blocker Abby Cole and sophomore outside hitter Caroline Knop. They asserted themselves early on and ultimately combined for 33 total kills.
Even with a first set win in sight, Michigan suffered a letdown in the later stages of the opening frame, as the Hoosiers roared back to take a 24-23 lead. Michigan coach Mark Rosen called a timeout, and on the ensuing three plays, the Wolverines won every point en route to a 26-24 set win.
“In those timeouts, nothing actually that remarkable happens,” Rosen said. “What we did in the next three points was we took advantage of the opportunity.”
But that quick comeback, which gave Michigan an early lead, proved to be the end of the Wolverines’ success. In the second set, Indiana jumped out to a 19-14 lead as Michigan struggled to get anything going, failed to chip away at the deficit and lost the set, 25-18.
“We made uncharacteristic mistakes … like committing net violations,” Knop said. “It was not anything that Indiana did … as it was just us making mistakes.”
With the proceedings knotted at one apiece, Michigan was presented with a new set and a new opportunity to get back on top.
However, Indiana carried the momentum from its dominant second-set win into the third set. The Wolverines were simply overmatched at the net against outside hitter Allison Hammond, who notched 16 kills in the match and gave Michigan’s defense a tough time. Indiana, despite allowing the Wolverines to nearly tie it up late, held on for a 25-22 set win.
“We have not been the most consistent team, even though we have been better lately in that regard,” Rosen said. “We did not adjust to the tempo at which Indiana was playing, and we did not play well enough offensively.”
Indiana went in for the kill in the fourth set, battering a lethargic Michigan team with an array of offensive weaponry, building a quick 10-3 lead.
With their season on the line, the Wolverines were not going to go down without a fight and cut Indiana’s lead to 17-16. But just as it seemed that Michigan was hitting its stride, its inconsistency reappeared at just the wrong time. The Wolverines committed three hitting errors in the final part of the frame and lost the final set, 25-20.