Senior middle blocker Jess Robinson has taken the leap.
After being a solid starter for the Michigan volleyball team during her first three years, she dominated the first eight games of this season, leading the nation in hitting percentage at .539. Robinson’s efficiency slowed once Michigan entered Big Ten play, posting .273 and .250 against Rutgers and Penn State respectively. However, Robinson resumed her dominance Wednesday night against Ohio State. She led the Wolverines with 17 points and a .571 hitting percentage, a bright spot in the loss.
“I’ve played with Jess for a while and she just continues to get scarier and scarier every single time she steps on the court,” junior outside hitter Jess Mruzik said. “Just doing a great job and she’s been working really hard with our setters and building that connection. … Her and our setters have done a great job and she’s just killing it right now.”
Robinson set the tone early with a kill and an ace within the first three points. Later in the first set, she kept the Wolverines in it after the Buckeyes took their biggest lead thus far at 20-17.
She pounded two kills in a row to bring Michigan within one, but her efforts weren’t enough to win the set. In the first set, she went a perfect six-for-six on kills; the rest of the Wolverines hit a subpar .024.
Down 12-5 in the second set, Robinson put the team on her back yet again. With two blocks and a kill, she again put Michigan in a position to come back. Although her efforts were in vain, Robinson’s mark on the match was undeniable.
“When they set the ball, she’s so high,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “She’s so physical. She has a lot of angles because of that and she’s worked really hard to be at that level. We’re super proud of her but she’s done that a lot and teams are focused on her now, she’s certainly on the scouting report.”
Robinson finished the match first in points, second in kills, and second in blocks for the Wolverines despite only being fourth in total attacks. On a day filled with errors for Michigan, she was precise and powerful.
Although efficient kills are important, they are not the only important aspect of Robinson’s game. The Wolverines’ blocking was challenged by the fierce Ohio State attackers.
“My goal as a middle is just to continue to become a more consistent blocking team,” Robinson said. “I think we’re really getting there but Ohio State really tested us tonight. … getting faster, getting stronger just to make sure that we’re shutting other hitters down.”
The final result wasn’t ideal for Michigan, but Robinson’s return to the most efficient attacker in the nation shows promise for the rest of the season, with Big Ten play ramping up. The Wolverines will continue to turn to her high-flying kills as they face a difficult schedule.