It felt like one of the key moments of the season.
Just over a week after the No. 14 Michigan volleyball team dropped a five-set heartbreaker at home to Wisconsin — beginning a three-match losing streak — the Wolverines came through with their biggest win of the season. Sunday, Michigan avenged its loss to the No. 5 Badgers in Madison, defeating them 25-19, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22.
The Wolverines (19-6, 8-6) were led once again by the duo of senior outside hitter Carly Skjodt and freshman outside hitter Paige Jones. Skojdt had 23 kills on 56 swings resulting in 25.5 scoring points, and Jones tallied 10 kills on 46 swings for 10.5 scoring points.
Sophomore middle blocker Dana Rettke paced Wisconsin (16-6, 9-5) with 17 kills on 35 swings for 22.5 scoring points. Redshirt junior outside hitter Madison Duello added 16 kills on 38 swings for 19 scoring points.
Michigan got off to a slow start, dropping a first set that felt much worse than the score of 25-19 indicated. After back-to-back disappointing performances versus No. 3 Minnesota and at Indiana, this match seemed all set to compound on the Wolverines’ recent woes.
But Michigan won the second set, making the third feel crucial. In a precarious spot down 18-22, the Wolverines once again mounted a startling comeback against the Badgers, ripping off seven straight points to take the set and momentum, 25-22.
“(Assistant Coach Leisa Rosen) made the adjustment, and we subbed in (sophomore libero Jaqueline) DiSanto to serve, which we hadn’t done all match,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “Next thing you know we had a five point run (out of her). Jaq did a great job of putting aggressive serves on them, and our defense did a great job of stepping up and closing that one out.”
In contrast to their fourth-set comeback to force a decider last week in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines made sure this one match wouldn’t slip away.
The fourth set was competitive throughout, with neither side leading by more than one point for most of the set after the Wolverines came back from a 13-9 deficit to tie the score at 13. Eventually, Michigan pulled ahead to finally finish Wisconsin off, 25-22.
Redshirt junior middle blocker Cori Crocker made her long-awaited return from injury, providing a spark with four kills on seven swings for five scoring points. She also aided the defense with two blocks and two block assists — the second-most on the day for the Wolverines in both categories.
“We actually used her in the opposite position today, because we still didn’t feel that she was ready to move 100 percent and cover the range that she’d have to as a middle.” Rosen said. “I think with Cori coming back, the biggest thing is that it gives us some options, to really make some adjustments (with blocking). Allowing her to impact the other team with her blocking presence is huge.
“Hopefully within the next week we’ll have her all back to 100 percent.”
Michigan looks to continue on the winning track with six more regular season matches before the start of the NCAA Tournament.
“I think when you’re struggling a little bit, you haven’t had the wins, it’s definitely frustrating,” Rosen said. “It was a really much-needed win today, and with sports and athletics, the mood (around the team) is constantly changing.
“I’m proud of this team for fighting really hard when things weren’t going great, and still finding a way to fight through that and keep their wits in a match like this.”