In a match where a team expects to win, it can be hard to find positives in a deflating loss. But freshman right-side hitter Serena Nyambio bucked that trend, providing a burst of enthusiasm and strong play despite the No. 25 Michigan volleyball team’s loss to Indiana on Friday at Cliff Keen Arena.
Nyambio, who has been working hard to find her place in the Wolverines’ rotation after switching to right-side hitter, was given an early opportunity to make an impact after the team came out of the gate rather discombobulated. Michigan initially struggled to find rhythm early against the Hoosiers’ relentless attacking strategy, quickly going down 5-2 in the first set. Looking for a spark, Michigan coach Mark Rosen subbed Nyambio in.
“Serena’s improvement has been exponential,” Rosen said. “I’ve been so impressed with her in a new position that she’s not as comfortable with, but she’s getting better every single day … I’m just really proud of how hard she’s working to get better and how she’s staying even-keeled and focused on learning, rather than focused on ‘if things don’t go perfect.’ ”
Almost immediately after entering the action, she made an impact with a block assist and a kill in consecutive points to close the early gap to one point, energizing the crowd with her exuberant play. Then, on set point, Nyambio came up with a clutch solo block to clinch the first set for the Wolverines.
“We love to compete,” Nyambio said. “We love the pressure because pressure, to me, is a privilege. It’s just that you’re being challenged and I think that’s an amazing thing. But that desire to win, and then to beat your opponents, drives you to keep going.”
That drive to keep pushing also showed in the second set, as Nyambio recorded another solo block and a kill to keep Michigan alive in a tug-of-war set that Indiana eventually pulled away to win, 25-22.
But as the match slipped away from the Wolverines in the third and fourth sets, Nyambio’s play tapered off a little. After recording yet another block assist, she committed an attacking error as part of a larger Indiana run to stretch their lead in the third set. In the fourth set, she had an attacking error in the back-and-forth early stages of the set.
As Nyambio gains more experience, growing pains are bound to ensue as she becomes more accustomed to her new role as a right-side hitter on the team. However, she has an incredible support system that is steadfast in helping her grow.
“I’m not really used to this (new position),” Nyambio admits. “But I think the support and feedback from May (Pertofsky), she’s been playing (right-side hitter) for a while, is helping me a lot. My team telling me to slow down or (say), ‘this was good, this was bad.’ It’s really been helping me with feedback and learning from them. … Just the support of the staff and teammates have really helped a lot.”
Nyambio will look to continue improvement upon the standout moments from Friday’s game and the feedback she garners from her teammates and coaches as Michigan volleyball continues to navigate their season.
And as she continues settling into her new position, Nyambio’s success could help the Wolverines improve in Big Ten play.