In its final game of the regular season, the Michigan volleyball team wanted to finish on a high note.
Friday evening, the Wolverines (18-11 overall, 11-9 Big Ten) did just that, capping off their regular season with a 3-1 win over Northwestern (12-19, 7-13). Michigan won three straight sets, all by five points or more, after dropping the first set.
“They played a great match and gave us all the fight we had and kind of threw us for one in that first set, but I’m just really proud of how the team came out and won the next three sets,” sophomore outside hitter Jess Mruzik said. “I think throughout those next three sets we were much more aggressive, especially out of system. They are a really good serving team and they put us out of system quite a bit.”
The Wolverines were led by an impressive performance from senior outside hitter Paige Jones, who led the team in points and kills and had a pair of service aces. Jones was in control throughout the match, sending numerous impressive shots to Northwestern’s back corner throughout the night, spurring on her team.
Michigan jumped out of the gate taking the first two points of the match. In response, the Wildcats came out hard early on, hitting the ball hard and playing tough. They served hard all night especially when behind, trying to knock Michigan off balance. And in the first set, it worked. While the Wolverines held tough, they ultimately fell short in the first set, 22-25.
Northwestern’s tough style allowed it to gain some momentum that carried into the second set. Michigan continued to battle, but Northwestern pushed hard and took an 11-8 lead midway through the set.
But Jones was a force in the second set. She led the Wolverines on a 4-0 run, including a service ace, to give them back the lead. Northwestern responded, but Michigan had found its rhythm. It ended with a 6-0 run to take the set, 25-20.
With the match tied at one, the Wolverines continued to perform. Despite tough efforts from Northwestern, Michigan pulled away with another 25-20 set victory, capped off with a Wildcats attack error. The win put the Wolverines squarely in the driver’s seat with momentum on their side.
With that, Michigan ran away. It put together an impressive 7-0 run that built a lead that they would never surrender. At the end of it, the Wolverines claimed a 25-18 set four victory, earning a win to accompany its senior night celebration.
On senior night, Michigan celebrated everything that the senior class has done for and brought to the program in its time in Ann Arbor. They’ll certainly be happy to send off their seniors with a win.
“They’ve always been great role models for me,” Mruzik said “They welcomed me with open arms. They’ve done a great job communicating, and while all their roles are different, every single one of them has been super supportive.”
Added Michigan coach Mark Rosen: “Every one of them made a huge impact on this team, on this program, and on their teammates in whatever role they had. Paige as a player has been huge for this program since her freshman year. … (Senior night) is one of my least favorite nights because it’s sad to see them go … I’m really proud of that whole group.”