Michigan volleyball excels offensively in Iowa sweep
At a point halfway through the first set, red-shirted second-year Libero Hannah Grant got ready for the incoming serve.
When the ball came in, she moved to the side to receive it and sent a pass to Scottie Johnson. The second-year passer planted her feet and passed it to away main forward Paige Jones, who slammed a kill in the middle of the field, tying the set at 13 apiece.
From there, the Michigan volleyball team (12-8 overall, 5-6 Big Ten) won 12 of the next 15 points to close the set and swept away Iowa (3-19, 1 -11) 3-0. Saturday evening. The offense was scorching through the night, registering 51 kills with a 0.391 hit percentage throughout the game.
The first set didn’t start as well as it ended for the Wolverines. During the first half of the set, the two teams went back and forth, trading almost every other point. Finally, Michigan moved away, led by Jones and second-year outside hitter Jess Mruzik, who combined for nine kills in the set.
“We kept pushing them, we kept pressuring them, but we stayed patient,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “All of a sudden, right in the middle of the set, we stayed aggressive and opened it up.”
The Hawkeyes punched the Wolverines in the mouth in the second set, starting the set with a 5-1 run. But then first-year mid-tackle Jacque Boney – who has been a force all year – made his presence felt again. On four points in a row, Boney recorded three kills and one block, returning momentum to Michigan’s favor.
“It’s really good to know that I’m contributing,” said Boney. “It’s really easy because my teammates help me and tell me what to look for. … Little little comments like this throughout the game help me contribute.
After his dominance, Boney continued to contribute for the remainder of the set, adding two more assists and another kill. With his help, the Wolverines stayed slightly ahead of Iowa throughout the set before retiring at the end to win 25-21.
Unlike the first two sets, Michigan raced ahead to start the third. Mruzik and Jones continued to hit with precision, but it was Johnson’s play that really stood out. As well as registering 13 assists, she added two eliminations, forcing the Hawkeyes to pay attention to another striker when blocking.
“When you attack on that second ball it speeds things up defensively, it’s a lot faster than they’re ready for,” said Rosen. “It makes them slower trying to block third contact, so it’s a really important part of the offense to make her become a threat.… She’s calling her own number more and more – she has to.
Led by Johnson, the Wolverines again held a small lead for the majority of the set before opening it at the end. In its 25-21 third set victory, the offense continued to fire on all cylinders, with all five active players registering at least one kill with a combined hitting percentage of 0.386.
All night long, Iowa couldn’t do much to stop Michigan’s outside hitters from pulling off their kills, while the middle blockers created problems for the Hawkeyes on the offensive end. For a team that in the past had to rely on contributions from just one or two players, bringing all the offense into the action has added a new level of depth.
After losing their last two clashes, the Wolverines finally straightened the ship offensively on Saturday night. They will have to hope that this trend continues.