Staring at an 0-2 start to its Big Ten season in the rearview mirror, the No. 23 Michigan volleyball team came into this weekend knowing that it had to win.
And win it did.
After a huge victory over Ohio State in front of a record-breaking crowd of over 8,000 people at Crisler Center, the Wolverines faced a tough Maryland team (1-3 Big Ten, 12-4 overall) in the friendly confines of Cliff Keen Arena.
Early in the match, Michigan (2-2, 12-4) struggled to generate offense, with just 15 total kills in its first two sets combined.
“In the second set, when we only had nine kills and we needed kills, we had opportunities and we just didn’t score,” said coach Mark Rosen. “You could tell we were just not going about this the right way.”
Following these early offensive struggles, Rosen tried to light a fire under his team in the locker room.
What a blaze it turned out to be. Michigan’s lethargy evolved into an explosion of offense, and it easily closed out the match, 3-1.
No one embodied the fiery passion the Wolverines displayed more than senior middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright, whose immense output of raw energy left her barely able to speak in her post-game interview. She also contributed 15 crushing kills — a team high.
Three other Wolverines also had eight or more kills, including senior outside hitter Adeja Lambert, who absolutely crushed several key kills, and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Cori Crocker. Junior outside hitter Carly Skojdt also excelled, pummeling the Terrapins into submission with 11 kills in just the last two sets.
By pairing this balanced offensive attack with excellent serving, Michigan was able to put Maryland on its heels. The Wolverines pounded in 10 service aces, with five of them coming from Lambert — a season high for her. These aces weren’t the only reason the Wolverines’ serving was excellent on Saturday night, though.
“We served them tough enough that for the majority of the match they couldn’t set their middles,” Rosen said. “So we are controlling who they can set to with our serve.”
In the last couple sets, the Wolverines appeared to dictate the terms of the match, forcing the Terrapins to play in uncomfortable situations. Whenever Maryland tried to string together a run, Michigan would always respond.
“Just being able to put the pedal to the medal and just push through and know that we have to be aggressive I think is what really separated us at the end,” Kieffer-Wright said.
Now, the Wolverines are staring at a 2-0 weekend record in their rearview mirror. But with tough matchups coming up soon, they aren’t going to rest on their laurels.
As Skojdt put it: “Every weekend in the Big Ten is competitive.”