After falling in straight sets to No. 1 Nebraska in Ann Arbor earlier this season, the Michigan volleyball team got another crack at the unbeaten Cornhuskers on the road Friday. But the Wolverines met a similar fate.
Michigan (7-20 overall, 5-13 Big Ten) was swept 3-0 by Nebraska (26-0, 17-0). The Wolverines were thoroughly outmatched and did not hold any lead until the third set. The match illustrated the vast differences between the two teams.
“They’re really balanced offensively,” Virtue said. “They’re tough to defend because they have weapons across the nets. And they have a really elite setter that’s going to be setting them up for the next three years, freshman (Bergen) Reilly, and I was impressed with their offense tonight.”
Reilly was among the standouts for the Cornhuskers, recording 28 assists, the most of any player on either side of the court. Another key to Nebraska’s dominance was middle blocker Andi Jackson, who tallied a highly efficient .818 kill percentage and led the team with nine kills and 10.5 points. The Cornhuskers were the more efficient team, hitting at an overall percentage of .368 in comparison to Michigan’s meager .047, and had three players with a kill percentage above .500.
The Wolverines’ inefficiency reflected on the stat sheet. Michigan had more attacks than Nebraska, tallying 106 to the Cornhuskers’ 87, but fewer kills and more attack errors. These statistics are emblematic of the Wolverines’ performance all season long: visibly rife with potential, but demonstrating the recklessness and inconsistency that comes with their inexperience.
“I think early in the match we made quite a few attack errors that are just uncharacteristic of our team,” Virtue said. “And like I said before, I think Nebraska has a very high level defense.”
Michigan’s silver lining in defeat was freshman opposite hitter Valentina Vaulet, who led the team in kills and total attacks, with nine and 26 respectively. Vaulet enjoyed a particularly strong run of play in the middle of the third set, recording two kills and a block assist that briefly kept Michigan in contention to force a fourth set.
“I’ve been really, really impressed with the steady climb and her play,” Virtue said. “We’re asking more and more of her each match. And I think she’s really mature, being a freshman, and so I’m excited to see the progress.”
However, the issues with the team remained plentiful. Sophomore middle blocker Serena Nyambio and senior outside hitter Kendall Murray, normally some of the most consistent players on the team, both recorded negative hitting percentages, and no one on the team recorded a kill percentage higher than .346.
With inefficient and error-filled play the Wolverines were clearly outmatched by Nebraska, and it was reflected throughout the sweep.