Taking its own Michigan Invitational by storm, the Michigan volleyball team swept its way through both its matches on Saturday against Oakland and West Virginia. The Wolverines lost just one set over the weekend, in Friday night’s win over George Washington.
Michigan (3-0) jumped out in an aggressive way to start the nightcap of the invitational, not allowing the Mountaineers to score until the Wolverines had scored the set’s first six points. Sophomore defensive specialist Caroline Knop and junior middle blocker Abby Cole, who together scored each of the team’s four points, led the charge. The two combined for 11 kills in the set.
Michigan found itself sitting with a 14-7 lead, but West Virginia (1-2) put together a significant run in the middle of the set to move within three, 21-18. The Wolverines found a way to close things out, finishing the set 25-20.
“I thought we did well, and hit a good percentage,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “There were some weird plays where I think we could have been cleaner, but I think we played really aggressively and that’s something I like about this team so far. They seem to go right at it and aren’t sitting back waiting for the other team to make mistakes.”
Much was the same for Michigan in the second set as the Wolverines came out of the gate firing, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. But once again, the Mountaineers scratched and clawed their way back into contention, eventually working the set to a tight 19-18. Michigan weathered the attack, however, finding a way to eke out a 25-23 victory.
Knop, Cole and sophomore opposite hitter Katherine Mahlke combined for 21 of the team’s 32 kills in the first two sets. Michigan committed 11 errors in the second frame, in contrast to just three in the first, but Rosen attributed that simply to the team’s continued aggression.
“I felt like we were making some errors, but we hit almost .300, which is pretty clean,” he said. “We only made 15 attack errors in three sets, so it was just one of those sets that just didn’t feel as good as it was.”
The Wolverines would close out West Virginia in the third set, but the Mountaineers didn’t go down without a fight. The set was closer early on than either of the first two, leaving the score tied at 14. Then, Michigan threw together a spectacular run, scoring 11 of the next 14 points to win the set 25-17 and the match 3-0.
Earlier in the day against Oakland (1-2), the Wolverines followed a similar track in each of their three sets en route to a 3-0 victory. In each set, Michigan let the Golden Grizzlies hang around until halfway through before pulling away to win. The Wolverines won all three sets by the score of 25-18.
Kicking the match off, the Wolverines jumped out to a 16-8 lead, before five straight Oakland points trimmed Michigan’s lead to just three. After a timeout the Wolverines regained momentum, cruising to a seven-point, match-opening victory.
Though the second set got off to a somewhat shaky start for Michigan, the Wolverines were able to establish themselves in the driver’s seat and coast to another 25-18 victory.
Leading two sets to none, Michigan emptied its bench for much of the third. It was close throughout, but the Wolverines solidified their edge in the end, topping the Golden Grizzlies to clinch the victory.
“We don’t really have a starting lineup,” Rosen said. “We have a lot of players that can come in right now. One of our things that we’re trying to experiment with and get people comfortable with is that we should be able to make changes and stay the same or get better with those changes off the bench.”
The Wolverines were able to rest Cole, a star player, through much of the Oakland match, further allowing Rosen and the Michigan squad to prove that it has the depth and versatility to play with anyone.