As the third set reached 20 points apiece, the No. 22 Michigan volleyball team found every scoring attempt on No. 6 Minnesota blocked, mishandled or poorly executed.
The Wolverines’ offense was disorganized and predictable, letting Minnesota go on a seven-point run to cap off the 3-0 sweep. Michigan (2-3, Big Ten, 12-6, overall) finally lost to Minnesota, breaking their eight-game home winning streak.
“Once they start keying on (senior middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Cori Crocker), we’ve gotta have more options and use more options,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “I thought we did that early on in sets but I think when it got late, we got a little more predictable.”
Late game, it was evident that the Gophers, (4-2, 15-2) had the Wolverines figured out. At the end of the first set, Minnesota scored five of the last six points to close out the game, with Michigan getting a point off a Gopher service error.
Senior outside hitter Adeja Lambert went up for a kill to tie the first set when it was 21-20, running a straight route down the left side of the court. She was subsequently met by two blockers, who forced the ball down, leading to a Minnesota point.
The play defined the end of the set, as the next three plays happened in similar fashion. All three ended in blocks before freshman setter Mackenzie Welsh served the ball out of bounds to end the set.
The struggles — which poorly reflected the efforts given in the beginning of the set — appeared to be a fluke as the Wolverines came out hot for the second set. However, as those second set neared its end, the signs of struggle appeared again.
Despite being up nine points in the back-and-forth set, Michigan found itself down one by the time it scored 20. However, in addition to being unable to score, the Wolverines found themselves unable to stop the Gophers from scoring as well.
Of the four points Minnesota scored in the final five plays, two were kills while the other two points were off errors made by Welsh. Welsh, who efficiently served early in the sets, had four service errors — three of which were made in the latter half of the sets.
The third set followed a similar pattern as the first two. The Gophers controlled the end of the game, shutting down Michigan in all facets of the game. Blocking the last kill attempt, Minnesota put up a defensive showing in the latter half of the set to reiterate its late-game dominance.
Despite the outcome, the Wolverines refused to feel disheartened. The early spurts in each of the sets provided a basis for confidence for the team.
“It was like two rotations really where we gave them a big run,” Rosen said. “We outplayed them the rest of the game. And they snuck it away. And I’m really proud at how our team came back and fought hard at the beginning of each of those sets. We know we got to finish this. We know that’s where our reality is. But we got to get better than that.”