After losing two of its last three games, the No. 24 Michigan volleyball team (6-2) looked to right the ship on Friday against Navy (4-4), a feat it would accomplish after battling through three close sets.
From the outset, things didn’t look good for the Wolverines.
Michigan was down 11-8 early against the Midshipmen in the first set. Looking to get his team back on track, Michigan coach Mark Rosen called a timeout. Coming out of the huddle, the Wolverines outscored Navy, 17-11, en route to a 25-22 victory in the first set. They would go on to win the next two sets 25-22 and 25-21 to earn a 3-0 sweep.
Despite earning a sweep, Rosen believes that the win left much room for improvement.
“I don’t think we played to the level of our ability, so for me, it’s hard to look and say we pulled these out,” Rosen said. “I think it never should’ve been that close,” Rosen said. “For me, I think we can execute better and represent better.”
While the team looked far more disciplined and effective after Rosen’s timeout, he insists that he had little to say in the huddle. Instead, he used the break simply as a chance to let his squad regroup. Clearly, the strategy worked.
“(I was) just giving them a chance to regroup and take a step back and juts take that time to re-gather themselves,” Rosen said. “I thought that they responded well.”
In the second set, the Wolverines came out swinging, quickly jumping out to an 8-3 lead — highlighted by an ace from freshman middle blocker May Pertofsky — and forcing a Midshipmen timeout.
Errors, though, proved to be a problem, with the Wolverines committing three in the set to allow Navy to tie the score at 11.
Overcoming these mistakes, the Wolverines netted three straight kills to push the lead to 14-11. They then held off a late push from the Midshipmen after a block from senior outside hitter Sydney Wetterstrom and a Navy service error, taking the second set, 25-22.
Despite the team’s errors, Michigan found a steady anchor on offense in senior setter Mackenzi Welsh, who totaled 10 assists in the set and 35 total on the night. Rosen credited her for helping the team’s offense stabilize itself late in the set.
“She’s somebody who’s really experienced,” he said. “There’s a reason she’s our floor captain.”
With a chance to sweep, Michigan eventually clinched a 25-21 victory thanks to six kills from sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones. The final blow came on a spike from freshman middle blocker Jess Robinson, who had 11 kills on the night, including four in the final set.
“She doesn’t really bounce balls straight down very often,” Rosen said, “but she hits so hard and so high and with really good range that she just gets a lot of kills.”
One thing is certain: Friday’s win didn’t come without problems, as Rosen will be the first to tell you.
“I thought today we were very up and down,” he said. “We certainly are striving to be a more steady team than that, but right now that’s all I can go of is what I see and that’s where we were and we’ve gotta work on that.”