Seven members of the Michigan volleyball team registered at least one kill Wednesday in the Wolverines’ 3-1 victory over Rutgers.
But freshman outside hitter Carly Skjodt and junior middle backer Abby Cole stood out from the pack. Skjodt finished the match against the Scarlet Knights (0-7 Big Ten, 3-16 overall) with 13 kills — a career high — on 25 attempts along with 11 digs and five blocks with no errors. Cole netted 15 kills on 33 attempts.
“You need people who are going to step up,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “I think Abby is doing a great job of that.”
Skjodt and Cole dominated in Michigan’s 25-12 victory in the second set. Skjodt made a splash when she and sophomore middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright produced a highlight-reel block to force an attack error and give the Wolverines (4-3, 14-4) a 21-7 lead. She also netted five kills in the set.
Cole produced a strong second-set performance in her own right as she made three kills.
Cole lit her biggest spark for Michigan in the first set. With the score tied at 10, she put down back-to-back kills to give the Wolverines a two-point edge. Michigan never relinquished its lead at any point during the set as Cole later recorded three straight kills en route to a 25-18 win for the Wolverines. She finished the set with five kills.
“We actually switched Abby’s position,” Rosen said. “It’s the first time in her career that she played on the left side. I thought there were some areas she did tremendous with, and I thought that there were some areas that she still needs to get better at, but I expect that. We moved her over there to get her more involved in the offense.”
But Skjodt was not about to be outdone. She put down four kills on five attempts in the first set, including two consecutive kills to end the set. She also came up with five digs during that time.
“I thought Carly Skjodt played great tonight,” Rosen said. “Because Abby is very inexperienced with what we call ‘out-of-system’ balls, we sent a lot of those balls to (Skjodt). When you handle as many out of system balls as she did tonight and make zero errors, that’s a great night.”
In the third set, the Scarlet Knights went on a 7-1 run to narrow Michigan’s lead to 14-13. But Skjodt came up strong with a block that forced an attack error and gave the Wolverines a point. Later, with Rutgers leading 23-20, Cole put down a kill to trim the deficit to two.
Unfortunately for Michigan, the effort proved futile as the Scarlet Knights took the set, 25-21.
“You can win a set so dominantly (in volleyball) and then it just resets,” Rosen said. “That’s the unique thing about our sport. Maybe tennis is similar.”
Then Michigan won the final set, 25-21, with Cole and Skjodt again coming up with critical plays. Cole made four kills during the set, including one that gave the Wolverines a 23-21 advantage, while a Skjodt block capped off a 3-0 Michigan run to give it a 21-19 edge.
Wednesday was not the first time the duo of Cole and Skjodt has paid dividends for the Wolverines. Skjodt came up with a personal-best 16 digs Oct. 10 in Michigan’s 3-0 defeat at the hands of Nebraska. As for Cole, the Rutgers match was the 10th time this season she netted 10 or more kills.