It’s not an easy thing for an offense to achieve, but the Michigan volleyball team (11-3 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) proved it’s possible — sweeping Ohio State (8-7, 1-2) 25-20, 25-21 and 25-19 on Sunday.
The match was almost identical to the one just a week before, in which the Wolverines also defeated the Buckeyes, 3-0.
On Sunday, set one started with an opening point for Ohio State after an out-of-bounds hit from sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones. While Jones’s first volley couldn’t find the floor, her second did, resulting in a point for Michigan.
This back and forth play was a theme of the afternoon showcased in the match’s three hard-fought sets. Between the two teams, there were four lead changes in set one. Only late in the first set did Michigan begin to pull away going on a five-point run to finish it off, 25-20.
In the second set, after falling into a three-point deficit, Ohio State didn’t go away. The Buckeyes continued to fight throughout, creating the same back-and-forth rhythm seen in the first set. While Ohio State fought until the bitter end of the set, the Wolverines secured another win.
The third set was almost a tit-for-tat repeat of the first and second. Michigan completed the match with a 25-19 third set victory.
Last week against Ohio State, the match score was nearly identical, with the Wolverines sweeping 25-14, 25-17 and 25-19. Jones’ match stats highlighted another similarity between the two weeks. Last week, Jones had 14 kills. Sunday she topped it with 19. Jones’ consistency has quickly become a key for the Wolverines’ offense.
“Paige has become a solid foundation for us,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “She’s a veteran now.”
Another key offensive player has been freshman middle blocker May Pertofsky. Pertofsky contributed with nine kills last week, en route to winning the Big Ten Freshman of the Week Award. Sunday she one-upped that with 10 kills.
“She’s been a strong offensive player for us all year,” Rosen said. “It’s a nice set-up that we have a young player like that who has transitioned to the college game so quickly.”
Jones and Pertofsky have demonstrated kill consistency all season. Jones had 16 kills and Pertofsky had 11 in their matchup against Maryland, and Jones leads the team in overall kills with 178 on the season. On the defensive end, Pertofsky has 44 blocks — another team leading stat.
Senior outside hitter Sydney Wetterstrom also contributed five kills on Sunday, but what’s more impressive was her 17 digs. Wetterstrom has the second-most digs on the team, with 126 so far this season.
“She’s using all the weapons we have in a really good way,” Rosen said.
That production wouldn't be possible, though, without senior middle blocker Cori Crocker, whose contributions often do not show up on the stat sheet.
“The things that Cori does sets (Jones and Petrofsky) up,” Rosen said. “They have to pay so much attention to Cori.”
This offensive consistency from four front-row players who receive the majority of playing time will continue to be the highlight of the Michigan offense. This depth allows the Wolverines to continue to hang on through back-and-forth games like Sunday’s against the Buckeyes.
“I thought that what we did a great job of at the end of each game was just continuing with really steady execution,” Rosen said. “When the match was on the line in every set our team did a great job of the serve and pass game. That just allowed us to stay steady.”