Michigan women's volleyball loses in three straight sets to finish off a 0-2 weekend. Emily Alberts/Daily. Buy this photo.

After falling to No. 11 Minnesota in straight sets on Friday, the Michigan volleyball team (12-4 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) looked to bounce back with an upset win against No. 3 Nebraska on Saturday. The Cornhuskers (14-1, 6-0) entered the match undefeated in Big Ten games, including a huge five-set win over No. 6 Ohio State.

Ultimately, the Wolverines couldn’t handle the more experienced and fast-paced Nebraska, losing in straight sets, 14-25, 24-26, 19-25. The Cornhuskers beat Michigan defensively at the net, totaling 11 blocks to the Wolverines’ two. There’s a reason Nebraska’s defense is ranked No. 1 in the country, holding opponents to a hitting percentage of just 0.113 in 14 matches.

However, Michigan didn’t back down. It was led offensively by junior outside hitters Kendall Murray, who notched 13 kills, and Jess Mzurik, who recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 10 kills and 10 blocks.

“I thought our team stayed really aggressive,”  Michigan coach Mark Rosen said “When they’re [Nebraska] blocking really well, they’re playing great defense, they can kinda make you wanna back off a little bit, be a little more timid… but I thought our hitters kept coming right back after them.”

The Cornhuskers set the tone from the get-go with a well-placed serve and a strong block. From there, they never looked back, winning the first set 25-14. It seemed that for every point Michigan won, it had to work longer and harder than its opponent. Murray saved one set point down 13-24, but another kill by the Cornhuskers sealed the first set after her hard-fought effort.

After losing the first set, the Wolverines regained a sense of confidence they possessed all season, starting the second set out with newfound aggression. Michigan came out guns blazing, taking the first point—their first lead of the night. The first 10 points saw the teams trade blows back-and-forth with kill after kill. Finally, four straight kills by Murray and sophomore middle blocker Jacque Boney saw the Wolverines take a 4-0 run and a 9-6 lead. The Cornhuskers called their first timeout of the night after digging themselves an early hole.

“Being able to stay aggressive out of system is what drives our team,” Murray said. “When we’re scoring out of system, it’s not only energetic, but it also gives our setters confidence, it gives our liberos confidence, it just kinda feeds off throughout the entire team.”

Michigan continued its momentum, taking a 15-12 lead with a deceptive soft kill by senior opposite hitter May Pertofsky. However, Nebraska wasn’t giving up easily.

The Cornhuskers fought back to take set point at 23-24. As Nebraska’s libero Lexi Rodriguez looked to serve for the set, home-court advantage finally turned the Wolverines’ way. 

Momentum shifted to Michigan and roars filled Crisler Center when senior middle blocker Jess Robinson hit a crushing spike to save set point. Despite Robinson’s best efforts, it was too little too late, as two successive Nebraska kills saw Michigan lose the second set 24-26.

“I don’t second guess any of it,” Rosen said.  ”They had a little better execution, but I was really proud of how we played that set.”

Michigan couldn’t hold on to its second set momentum, losing the third set. Nebraska displayed more poise, experience and dominance on the defensive end in their sweep of the Wolverines.

There were noticeable improvements from Michigan’s game against Minnesota, particularly its hitting percentages, kills and digs which all went up, while errors went down. But at seventh in the Big Ten standings, there is still a ways to go for the Wolverines to stay relevant in the conference.

“You know last night we were a little frustrated with just how it panned out,”  Rosen said. “But tonight I thought we came back and flipped that a little bit,” 

After back-to-back matches against elite competition, Michigan now has a six-day break until it goes on the road against Michigan State, where it will look to bounce back with a win.

“We know it’s a journey,” Rosen said. “We know this is the process we’re working through and so that’s gotta be the next step in the process, but the first step is these guys need a little break, they’re not a video game, they’re humans, they work really really hard, and I’m really proud of them.”

Heading into this break, the Wolverines hope to regroup and rest knowing they have to work on communication and execution to minimize errors. While Michigan can declare a moral victory against Nebraska, it can’t expect to compete in the Big Ten committing costly errors.