Paige Jones lined up to serve. As the senior outside hitter rose up, she delivered a vicious spike that bounced off the Indiana defender and into the stands. Jones lined up again to serve. Same result. The third time, the Hoosiers caught on, digging the ball to send it back over the net. Jones, however, couldn’t be cooled off, delivering another hard kill to make it a solo 3-0 run.
Behind this momentum, Michigan (12-6 overall, 5-4 Big Ten) defeated Indiana (8-13, 2-8), 3-0 on Wednesday.
When Jones began her run, The Wolverines had just survived a long and grueling first set against a spunky Hoosier team looking for the upset. Although Michigan came away with the win in the first set, it was shaping up to be another hard-fought match. Every time the Wolverines scored a kill, Indiana would come right back with their own. When Michigan forced a service or attack error, the Hoosiers found a way to cause a miscue.
“Every team in the Big Ten is good,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “That’s why we are in this conference. It’s been the best conference in the country for 15 years.”
After winning the first set, the Wolverines needed to maintain control of the match. From the first serve in the second set, it was all Michigan. The first four points alone for them were scored by different players. If it wasn’t already clear, the set was going to the Wolverines once Jones started heating up.
With Michigan leading Indiana, 7-4, Jones went on her own 3-0 run to give the Wolverines a solid cushion. In the second set, she had three kills and two service aces, and throughout the match, she had a .500 hitting percentage with no errors.
“She was great all the way through the match,” Rosen said. “As the match went on, we were able to use her a lot more and she was great.”
But Jones wasn’t the only contributor to the blowout victory. Junior middle blocker May Pertofsky, sophomore outside hitter Jess Mruzik and Jones all notched double-digit kills, and they combined for only three errors throughout the entire match.
“We had a really good balanced offense, and everybody I thought did a great job,” Rosen said. “We were clean. We were pretty good… we made seven attackers for three sets. That’s actually a phenomenal number.”
Going into the third set, Michigan was confident. Indiana, however, did not go down without a fight. The third set looked very similar to the first, as both teams traded kills and errors to bring the score to 22-20 for Michigan. At that moment, coach Rosen called a timeout to calm his team down and regain momentum.
“I didn’t say anything at all (during the timeout),” Rosen said. “We just wanted to change the momentum a little bit, give them a breather, ice their server a little. I just wanted to try and slow the game down a little bit.”
This strategy was effective, as the Wolverines came out of the timeout winning three of the four points to secure another Big Ten victory.
Indiana did not make it easy on Michigan, but the Wolverines’ skill outmatched the Hoosiers in this match. With another clean match under Michigan’s belt, they look to carry the strong play as they continue through conference play.