It was late in the fourth set. The home crowd stood anxiously, awaiting a serve from Hawkeyes’ setter Brie Orr as their team lead 23-22, clinging to the hope of forcing a fifth set. The serve finally came, but it didn’t bring the result Iowa was looking for.
A kill by senior outside hitter Sydney Wetterstrom then tied the set at 23. On the next serve, an errant set from the Hawkeyes gave the Michigan volleyball team a chance at set point. Wetterstrom served and, after a rally, sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones finished the set off with her 13th kill of the match. The Wolverines staved off Iowa’s comeback and came away with their sixth consecutive win — and the first 5-0 Big Ten start in school history.
Michigan (12-3 overall, 5-0 Big Ten) entered the contest against the Hawkeyes (7-9, 1-4) having won its last 13 sets. Seeking to keep the momentum going against an Iowa team that was riding a three game losing streak entering Friday’s game.
When the game started, Michigan came out hot. A quick 5-0 run forced the Hawkeyes to take an early timeout. Iowa rebounded well, and this set the tone for the rest of the game — it consistently picked up clutch points. The Wolverines lead grew to as much as five throughout the set, but the Hawkeyes wouldn’t go away.
“Throughout most of the match it was kind of a back and forth thing because they’re a good team,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen.
Iowa eventually tied the first set up at 23 but never took the lead. Michigan responded and won the set, 27-25. Jones led the game after one set in both kills and points with eight and 10, respectively.
Early on in the second set, the Wolverines failed to build on any momentum due to errors. But, as the set progressed, Michigan found its stride and started to pull away from the Hawkeyes. The Wolverines had a stretch where they scored six of seven points and took a four-point lead. Michigan finished the set on a 5-0 run and took a commanding 2-0 set lead.
The third set saw Iowa come out strong and dominate the Wolverines. A quick 10-1 start crushed any hopes Michigan had of getting out of the match early. The Wolverines kept fighting and eventually cut the lead to four late in the set. But it wasn’t enough as the Hawkeyes became the first team to win a set against Michigan since September 22.
“They got on us early but, I thought we actually rebounded pretty well,” Rosen said. “The last half of the third set we played better than them we were just so far down.”
In the final set, Michigan ended the game in a style close to that of the first set. It came down to the very end, but the Wolverines pulled out the win.
“I think we’re just trying to play good, consistent volleyball, ” Rosen said. “And I think we’re doing a good job of that.”