The No. 24 Michigan volleyball team was looking to defeat a ranked opponent for the first time since upsetting then-No. 10 Ohio State last year, but on Saturday night, the Wolverines couldn’t achieve their goal.
Michigan (5-5 Big Ten, 15-6 overall) fell to rival No. 6 Ohio State at Cliff Keen Arena, 3-1. Recurring late-set mishaps by the Wolverines led them to lose the final two sets. The Wolverines were in each set until the end, and all four sets were decided by two points.
“We just need to get two points better,” said junior outside hitter Abby Cole.
The game plan for the Wolverines was to have a balanced attack, and coach Mark Rosen rotated players’ positions, subbing in and out frequently, so everyone could get in on the action. Seven different Wolverines recorded kills in the first set, but Rosen still wasn’t happy with the production from his team out of the gate.
“I don’t think Ohio State played great in the first set,” Rosen said. “I think we let them do what they wanted to do because we didn’t play defense.”
Michigan lost the first set, 25-23, but came back in the second behind big late-set kills from Cole and sophomore outside hitter Adeja Lambert to tie the match at one game apiece.
The Wolverines led the Buckeyes for the majority of the third and fourth sets, but couldn’t put their rival away. Ohio State (8-2, 19-3) came right back whenever it was down a few points, and was able to save two crucial set points in both the third and fourth sets. The Buckeyes went on to win both of those sets, 28-26.
Cole recorded six kills in the fourth set, along with three blocks, but it wasn’t enough to beat a consistent attack from the Ohio State front line. Outside hitters Elizabeth Campbell and Luisa Schirmer combined for 33 kills in the match, including the Buckeyes’ final four kills to finish the deal.
Losing to the Buckeyes at home on Saturday marks Michigan’s third loss to a top-10 team in the last two weeks, after falling to No. 5 Penn State at home on Wednesday and at No. 4 Nebraska on Oct. 10. But the team isn’t making excuses.
“We’re not happy with having tight matches with those teams,” Rosen said. “We want to beat those teams, and I think we’re good enough to beat those teams.”
Michigan’s Big Ten schedule doesn’t get any easier, and the Wolverines emphasized the need for a better, consistent team effort going forward.
“One of our goals was to be balanced offensively,” Rosen said. “But I don’t think we got balanced production.”
Michigan totaled a mediocre .173 team attack percentage for the match, compared with Ohio State's mark of .269.
Two close losses in a row have the Wolverines looking forward to a week of practice before heading to Northwestern and Illinois this coming weekend. There they will look to do better late in sets, and improve upon their eighth-place Big Ten standing.
“We put ourselves in positions to win every set,” Rosen said. “Now we have to take that next step.”