Just over a month after Michigan’s volleyball team (21-9 overall, 10-9 Big Ten) swept Northwestern (15-16, 5-14) in its last matchup on Oct. 20, the Wolverines repeated history with another 3-0 win that can best be summed up by senior outside hitter Carly Skjodt’s ace service to get Michigan to the game point of the first set.
Wednesday’s match proved to be routine. Though the Wildcats held on for the first few points of the set, by the time the Wolverines were done with their scoring run, the score was 12-6 and Northwestern could never recover. The players were attentive, but relaxed, and the game went as anticipated.
After Skjodt's service ace, final missed serve by Northwestern signaled its surrender — the Wolverines took the first set, 25-11.
Though this is Skjodt’s last season at Michigan, her shoes will be filled by breakout freshman outside hitter Paige Jones.
Jones started the second game in a deep squat with her arms outstretched, summoning three powerful spikes that led to three subsequent points to keep Northwestern on its toes in the second set. It showed.
In a battle to stay in the match, three Wildcats dove for a rogue ball that was headed for the stands, and before too long Michigan had secured the second set, 25-15.
Over the course of the match, the Wildcats had 26 attacks errors, while the Wolverines had just 10. Michigan had seven service aces; Northwestern had just two.
With the dominance, the third set provided more target practice for Jones and Skjodt, the latter of whom boasted another ace. With two points left to claim the match, Jones checked out, having done her job for the night. A powerful kill by redshirt junior and middle blocker Cori Crocker closed the show, 25-19.
The team worked to display why it deserves to be seeded in the top 16 going into the postseason. The top 16 teams will host a match at their respective arenas, giving them a home-court advantage.
“We’re really close to hosting, so hopefully we’ll get there, but we’re not going to bank on it,” said Jones.
Her pragmatic attitude was closer to that of a veteran than the freshman she is. She maintained humility when asked about her growth over the season.
“You’re never gonna be your best,” Jones said. “I believe that you can always get better. But I just need to let myself play. I feel like sometimes I don’t think I can get to a ball, but I really can. So I think I just need to let myself put everything out there.”
And instead of dwelling on Wednesday's win over Northwestern, she remained focused on Saturday’s matchup against Michigan State.
“We’re pretty confident in where we’re at right now, (but) Saturday is still a really big game (against Michigan State).”