All teams that hope to find victory on an indisputable scale must first establish chemistry.
The Michigan volleyball team (12-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) came out strong against Northwestern (12-4, 1-3), hoping to sweep the Wildcats three straight sets. Instead, after dominating the first two, the Wolverines had to put themselves back together to eventually claim victory, 3-1.
Instead of focusing on the mechanics of the slip-up, Michigan found an alternative route of strengthening its play: eye contact.
“We had said we needed to make better eye contact,” junior opposite hitter Kendall Murray said. “We could feel the shift in energy, we said we’re winning this game.”
The Wolverines know that they must rely on each other to win each match — but that goes without saying. The trust that they build on the court improves to how they perform, and it was obvious that just that small bit of chemistry can go a long way.
In the first set, Michigan communicated well. Only one timeout was called in order to get their bearings straight, when Northwestern threatened a comeback. Otherwise, it was evident that the Wolverines held the momentum. They never trailed, playing a firm offensive game in order to claim the first set, 25-23.
In the second set, Michigan’s fluidity became even more apparent. The Wolverines trailed only a few times, but each time they found themselves behind, they came back with scoring runs. At one point, Michigan found itself on a ten-point scoring run showing its dominance of the second set, taking it, 25-18.
In the third set, that things got dicey for the Wolverines.
With plenty of service and attack errors to go around, they found themselves struggling to overcome a six-point deficit from the beginning of the set. Michigan found itself at a loss, and the momentum wisped away from its side of the court.
“There’s lots of ebbs and flows,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “We were just disjointed.”
Leaving behind a lost third set, the Wolverines turned their focus to silent communication.
Facing an eight-point deficit to Northwestern, the Wolverines were still struggling to get the ground back under their feet early in the fourth set. After taking a time-out to refocus themselves, Michigan slowly clawed its way back up to steal the final set, 27-25, and win the hard-fought match against the Wildcats.
“We were just trying to stay connected,” junior outside hitter Jess Mruzik said. “It was important for us to stay together and trust each other.”
Michigan has been proving itself a worthy adversary all season — especially with its recent sweep of No. 9 Penn State. With Northwestern also coming off of a ranked win against No. 7 Minnesota, victory tasted a bit sweet for the Wolverines.
Not too sweet, however, that they weren’t able to take anything from their victory on Saturday.
“We want to be growing and learning every day,” Rosen said. “Today was a great example of how to fight through adversity. …We just want to stay connected as a team.”
It’s clear that the Wolverines have the talent necessary to best each opponent they set their mind to.
But that’s only as long as their chemistry continues to shine on the court.