After rallying for a tough 3-2 win over Michigan State last Wednesday, the Michigan volleyball team traveled to Iowa City hoping to dominate from the start rather than play from behind. But the Wolverines got a taste of déjà vu as they once again rallied from a 2-0 deficit for another 3-2 victory.
In the first set, Michigan (3-2 Big Ten, 13-3 overall) hit a slump due to changes in the starting rotation. Iowa (0-5, 10-8) held a narrow lead before Michigan redshirt junior outside hitter Ally Davis and Michigan sophomore middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright cut the lead with four kills each.
But it wasn’t enough to fend off the Hawkeyes, who stayed ahead the entire set and won it, 25-23.
The Wolverines held on for the first half of the second set by tying it up at seven before Iowa went on a 4-0 run. Michigan called a timeout in hopes of reigniting its offense as the Hawkeyes continued to stretch their lead. The timeout was ineffective, though, as Iowa scored six straight points to take the second set, 25-13.
“Tonight we had to change our lineup a lot because of some injuries, so it took us a while to find a combo that worked,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “We kept changing all night.”
One of those injuries included sophomore defensive specialist Caroline Knop, the only Wolverine who had played in every set of every match this season.
“She was a real point of emotional and rotational stability for us,” Rosen said. “So tonight, everyone had to step up.”
The third set started out to be more of the same with a 4-1 run by Iowa. However, Michigan’s next timeout was more successful, as the team regrouped before scoring five straight points.
“No one was making eye contact (in the first two sets),” Kieffer-Wright said. “Our captain said that we should find someone to make eye contact with after every point, and then communication started to increase.”
But Iowa battled back to gain a 21-20 advantage. Two straight kills from junior middle blocker Abby Cole while facing match point tied the score at 24 and kept Michigan from succumbing to defeat.
The Wolverines refused to give up. A kill by Davis, a block by Cole with help from senior setter Carly Warner and an Iowa error forced the Hawkeyes to call a time out. Michigan then fought off four match points to win the third set, 28-26, and avoid a shutout.
The combined efforts of Kieffer-Wright and Cole helped Michigan dominate the fourth set and take a 25-21 win. Davis and Cole totaled double-digit kills and Kieffer-Wright tallied a career high of 12.
“It couldn’t have been a more competitive atmosphere to get a career high,” Kieffer-Wright said. “Our setters put us in really good situations to get kills.”
The Wolverines finally seemed to be in a groove as they tied the game with two sets apiece.
In the decisive set, the lead continued to change back and forth between Michigan and the Hawkeyes, but neither was able to take control. Cole proved just as effective on defense, teaming up with Warner once again to fend off an aggressive Iowa attack.
Though Iowa fought off two match points, the Wolverines had just enough stamina to outlast the Hawkeyes to win the match point, 15-13. The Wolverines once again won three straight sets to come out victorious.
“We find a way to win,” Cole said. “If it’s ugly or it’s pretty, it doesn’t matter.”