As the Michigan volleyball team gears up for the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Santa Clara on Friday in Los Angeles, one characteristic that seems to be propelling the Wolverines is their ability to make a comeback.
Whether it’s making up for a lost point or a full set, Michigan has proven that it can rally. This can be credited to the Wolverines “point-for-point” mentality. It’s a common theme that’s touched on during interviews and is clearly evident on the court.
“Even if you don’t lose the first match, you lose points throughout the match — you lose momentum at times,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “You have to really bounce back from that. We use the term ‘playing point for point’, which means we have to play for the next point instead of playing for the last point, or 10 points ago. They’re thinking about the point they’re in. Whether you lose the first set or you lose two and have to come back and get them in five, this team has a lot of resilience that way.”
Michigan returns to the NCAA Tournament after missing the event last season. If it beats Santa Clara on Friday, it will play the winner of UCLA and Lipscomb on Saturday.
The Wolverines are no stranger to tough competition. Michigan has established its reputation as a comeback team in its recent conference wins against Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois. The first time the Wolverines encountered each of these teams, they suffered difficult defeats, such as their 3-0 losses to Michigan State and Illinois. But the second time the Wolverines faced their Big Ten foes, they looked completely different. Michigan has stepped up its game each time it got a second chance against these teams, pulling wins against each higher-ranked squad.
Michigan hasn’t played Santa Clara before, so it can’t rely on its penchant for comebacks to help secure a win. However, the Wolverines do plan on playing Santa Clara as if they had lost to the Broncos before.
“We’re seeing these teams for the first time, but I think we’ll go in there with the same mentality that we do when we lose,” said senior setter Carly Warner. “Especially when we come back the second time around and we’ve lost to a team … So as long as we go in knowing we can beat them the first time and come out strong, we’ll be okay.”
Though the Wolverines won’t be able to capitalize on the weaknesses made apparent from playing a team multiple times, Michigan plans on taking advantage of the Broncos’ shortcomings early.
“I think that unfamiliarity is kind of a cool thing,” said Rosen. “It makes you go, ‘Hey, we really have to pay attention to this team a little bit more,’ and I think it’s exciting to play someone outside of the Big Ten. You guaranteed the first two rounds of the tournament to play someone different than a Big Ten team. So preparation-wise, that’s the only difference. You have to realize you’re not playing someone you know as intimately as a Big Ten team.”