The Wolverines were on the ropes.
Midway through the second set, Michigan volleyball coach Mark Rosen called a timeout. His team trailed by a point after scoring only one of the previous seven. Eastern Michigan was rolling.
But Rosen rallied his team, and the Wolverines (6-2) took the next three points. They never looked back en route to a 25-22, 25-18, 25-19 victory. Despite dominating just moments before, the Eagles (3-5) completely fell apart after Rosen’s timeout and never led again.
“(Before the timeout,) we were just making a lot of errors,” Rosen said. “… We just want to make sure we can play our game and don’t give them free points, and I thought they did a really good job after that, and then the game flipped.”
The first set was a largely back-and-forth affair early on, with neither team leading by more than one through the first 13 points. The Eagles managed to grind out a 12-8 lead, their largest of the match, but Michigan battled back to even the score at 17. From there, crucial kills — especially from sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones — propelled the Wolverines to their first set win.
“They’re a very different tempo than we are,” Rosen said. “… it just took them awhile to get used to the rhythm, and once they did, our block got a lot better and then our defense got a lot better after that.”
Using these defensive adjustments, the Wolverines maintained their rhythm early in the second set, opening with two consecutive kills from freshman opposite hitter May Pertofsky. Jones and senior outside hitter Sydney Wetterstrom anchored Michigan’s offensive attack, notching four kills each in the second set. Wetterstrom would finish the match with 11 kills, including a textbook spike to clinch the second set for the Wolverines. Jones finished with a team-leading 15 kills, a sensational number in a match that finished in just three sets.
“I’m trying right now to tell myself to just go out there and have fun and play,” Jones said. “When I think about stuff too much is when I struggle a little bit, but my teammates definitely help me feel more comfortable on the court to be able to go out and play volleyball and have fun.”
Michigan dominated the third set, jumping to an early 8-3 lead and riding that momentum through the end of the match. The offense largely ran through senior setter Mackenzi Welsh, who tallied 15 assists in the third set and a whopping 42 for the whole match.
“Mack is doing a great job being floor captain,” Jones said. “She’s the one that really makes sure that when we go into the huddle, we all make eye contact.”
The production didn’t stop there. Junior libero Natalie Smith added a team-leading 12 digs, and Jones and Welsh added 11 and 10 digs, respectively.
“Our passing, our first contact was really good tonight, and that’s something we’ve been spending a lot of time working on,” Rosen said. “Overall, I think we did a really good job.”