Michigan coach Mark Rosen left Happy Valley on Saturday night with a surprisingly happy outlook given the Wolverines’ results.
The Michigan women’s volleyball team (3-5 Big Ten, 13-7 overall) defeated Rutgers (0-7, 5-14) in four sets Friday before dropping its match to No. 2 Penn State (7-1, 17-1) in straight sets.
Despite the loss to the Nittany Lions, Rosen was pleased with how the Wolverines performed.
“I thought we played well, we just couldn’t sustain with them,” Rosen said. “I liked the personality of our team. We played with a lot of energy and with a lot of fight. In a tough environment, with a great crowd and a great team on the other side of the net, I thought we battled really well.”
But battling wasn’t enough. The Nittany Lions, anchored by five senior starters, played proficiently throughout the match and minimized errors, both of which contributed to a Big Ten-best seventh conference win.
On the other side of the net, the Wolverines were led by the strong play of junior outside hitter Carly Skjodt, senior middleback Claire Kieffer-Wright and sophomore setter Mackenzi Welsh, who led the team with 12 kills, five blocks and 25 assists, respectively.
The night before against the Scarlet Knights, Michigan fared better on the scoreboard, but not in the eyes of Rosen.
“I think we started the second set not playing very hard,” Rosen said. “That’s disappointing considering that is something we have been fighting with all year.”
And while Michigan was disappointed with its effort in the second set, the Wolverines turned the game around quickly — playing much more aggressively en route to commanding third and fourth set victories.
“I thought we responded really well,” Rosen said. “We stayed with our gameplan and played really disciplined. Obviously, you’d like to finish in three (sets) but we did some good things.”
Just like Saturday, Skjodt, Kieffer-Wright and Welsh paced the Wolverines statistically in kills, blocks and assists, respectively.
In the two weekend matches, Skjodt continued her dominant run of late and garnered nothing but the highest praise from her coach.
“Carly’s a great competitor,” Rosen said. “She’s fiery, she’s feisty, she’s really highly competitive and that’s coming out in how she’s playing right now. She’s a little beat up and she’s dealing with a few injuries, but she’s not letting that get in the way because she’s so competitive. I’m really proud of how she’s playing.”
There’s plenty of reasons for Rosen to be proud, too. In her transition to full-time starter, Skjodt has done nothing but impress. She currently leads Michigan with 230 kills and ranks tenth in the Big Ten with 3.38 kills per set, even more impressive considering the injury concerns Rosen said she is dealing with.
Looking back on the weekend, Rosen saw it as a great success, despite splitting the matches.
“We learned more about how to play together and how to hold our team dynamic together when things are not going great,” he said. “I thought we took a big step forward in the area, but again we’ll see when we step on the court for our next match or when we step into practice and those things need to be there.”