The set teetered back and forth late in the second set, with neither team giving in. Rutgers had built an early lead, but the Michigan volleyball team fought back to gain a late lead. Then, sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones broke the tension as she secured the win with a kill — putting the Scarlet Knights at an insurmountable deficit.
Jones bolstered the Wolverines offense and recorded her fourth consecutive double-double as Michigan topped Rutgers in 3 sets, (25-14, 25-23, 25-14).
“Paige has really taken her game to a new level after her freshman year,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “She plays the way you would expect from a veteran, and she’s surrounded by good offensive players.”
The Wolverines not only played well offensively but in all aspects of the game. They outperformed Rutgers defensively and consistently blocked the Scarlet Knights — their 10 blocks were their second-highest output this season. This combination of strong defense and powerful offense gave Michigan the advantage it needed to snatch the win.
At the start of the first set, both teams hustled to take the lead, but the Wolverines seized control at 5-4 and never trailed. Rutgers tried to close the gap, but lapses in communication hindered the Scarlet Knights from cutting into Michigan’s lead. The Wolverines — particularly excelling in defense — won, 25-14.
“We defended well,” Rosen said. “Cori (Crocker) played particularly well. She got 6 of our 10 blocks. The blockers did a good job, and the floor fed off of that.”
Michigan, lulled into security by the win, lost its groove at the start of the second set.
“Early in the second set, we were sloppy,” Rosen said. “We did not take care of things we needed to, and that gave the other team momentum. They started to play at a much higher level. It’s a dangerous thing to do — to give another team momentum.”
Rutgers led the second set, 10-5. But the Wolverines chipped away at the Scarlet Knights’ lead and eventually took the advantage. The teams stayed within a few points of each other, and by the time the match point rolled around Michigan had the lead. Jones’ attack won the Wolverines the set, 25-23.
The Scarlet Knights’ momentum dissipated as Michigan dominated the third set. Success blanketed the court for the Wolverines, especially offensively.
“It’s certainly the plan to have a good offense,” Rosen said. “We have very good attackers and things we can do offensively are difficult to stop. It all comes from good passing.”
Michigan stayed comfortably ahead of Rutgers the entire set. From the start, it looked as if the Wolverines would tack on their seventh-straight victory over the Scarlet Knights. Jones finished the game with a kill — giving Michigan a win to open its Big Ten slate.
“We have ambitions to win every match we play,” Rosen said. “We are just taking it day by day. Right now we are focusing on our Ohio State Sunday.”