I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
The #13 seed Michigan defeated #4 seed Stanford tonight in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Volleyball tournament. Michigan won in 4 sets by scores 25-18, 23-25, 25-22, and 25-11. Michigan came out with their highest focus level all season and it showed.
In set one, Michigan's big players, Alex Hunt, Juliana Paz, Veronica Rood, and Lexi Zimmerman all came out on fire. Michigan registered only one hitting error with a hitting percentage of almost .535. Hitting percentages are like batting averages in baseball. A .333 percentage is very good. .535 is unreal. We did it.
We had balance on offense. Hunt was surgical on the outside. She cut blocks right and left. Paz was powerful, blowing through blocks for kills. Veronica Rood got the attention from Lexi that she should, providing a distraction for the Stanford blockers, opening up the outside. Lexi was perfect on the set, but she was also a force on the block. The first set was only close because Michigan was pushing hard on the serve, leading to 4 extra Stanford points.
In the second set, Michigan jumped out to an early lead of 5-2, but Stanford came back to tie the game at 8. Stanford got their block going, especially on Hunt, but Michigan managed to slowly cut the lead down and even tie the game at 23. Down 23-24, Michigan let a serve by that looked to be out. It was ruled to have landed on the line and Michigan lost the set. The call was close, and that play ended up being the difference.
Set three saw Michigan return to dominating. Michigan had two different 7 point leads in the set, mainly thanks to a couple of runs by Rood and Hunt. Stanford managed to bring the game back to a one point Michigan lead at 20-19, but when Rood rotated back into the front, it was set over. Michigan pulled away and won.
Set four was all Michigan. Stanford's wheels began to fall off as they had back to back serve receive errors against both Paz and Donhoff. They never really got "in system", meaning they never were able to get into a normal bump-set-spike rhythm. Michigan steam rolled over the Cardinal to open the set 16-3. From that point, Michigan traded off points to the final 25-11 score.
- Lexi Zimmerman was great all night. Her sets were crisp and clean. Her blocks were timely and huge (I think she had more than the 2 assist listed in the gametracker). She did a great job of mixing the sets. She incorporated everyone in the game plan and didn't force too many 2's (quick hits by the setter instead of actually setting the ball to another player). Lexi has forced a lot of 2's lately, and today she definitely let Rood/Bower be the change of pace attacks.
- Alex Hunt's hitting from the left side won the match for Michigan. In the first and third sets, she was splitting blocks, pinpointing her hits to go off the block, and just smashing the ball. Her 18 kills lead the team
- Juliana Paz had a great night with 15 kills, 3 service aces, and a solo block. Despite these numbers, Paz really wasn't a huge part of the game. Her .250 hitting percentage was lowest of the major contributors, and might have overshadowed just how good she played. The two service errors also looked pretty bad, but those happen.
- Veronica Rood needs to be cloned. With middle blockers, you almost always have two of them in your rotation at any time. This way, you have one in the front at all times (the other is usually subbed out by the libero). When Rood is in the game, Michigan can't be stopped offensively. Rood's blocking on the season isn't quite as impressive as most other middle blockers in the BigTen, but her offense is top of the line. Her quick hits (zero sets) and her slide/cutting hits when she moves to her right then hits are money every time.
- Megan Bower, like Paz, had a quiet set of kills as well. Bower totaled 9 on 17 attempts for a .471, but her bigger contribution was a change of pace in set 3. After Stanford really started to key in on Hunt and Paz, and with Rood subbed out on the back row, Bower had a strong kill from the opposite side that helped get Rood back into the front row quicker. That was a big swing in the game.
- Karlee Bruck really struggled in this game. She had 3 kills and 3 hitting errors in 15 attempts for a .000 percentage. She seemed a bit slow to the block (but registered 2 block assists) and was also off on her attacks. She did do really well on a couple of one-on-one plays at the net where the ball came down up for grabs.
- Sloane Donhoff and Maggie Busch both played excellent defense today and contributed quite a bit at the line. Donhoff had 4 service aces (2 errors) and Busch had an ace (1 error) from the serving line.
With the win, Michigan advances to the Elite Eight and will play the Hawaii Wahine tomorrow night (11:30pm ET) in Palo Alto. Earlier today, the Wahine defeated an Illinois team that finished ahead of Michigan in the BigTen. Illinois looked flat, but Hawaii did what they were supposed to do and didn't make errors.
Hawaii appears to be a team very much like Michigan in that they are aggressive, focus on their serving game, and rely on a pair of hitters. This should be a really good, really tight game. Hawaii is a power program in the WAC, comparable to Boise State in football, but with a much longer track record of success in the NCAA tournament.
I'll update this with media information as I get it. I think the game will be streamed again, but I'm not sure.
Go Blue, Beat the Wahine.
I love that there was already a "Stanford Sucks" tag.
Even though they dropped the first 2 games to the bobcats (whose fans can spell O-H-I-O), they refused to let a team from the worst state ever end their season and rallie back to win the next 3. Good luck next week against the dancing tree!
Juliana Paz and Lexi Zimmerman were announced to the All-BigTen Volleyball team tonight on the BTN Women's Sports Show (BigTen release). Zimmerman was one of 8 players unanimously selected to the team, which only means that some coach has a vendetta against Juliana not to vote her in. That coach will be smote with a blazing spike from Paz after she finishes hunting them down.
Alex Hunt also was announced as an Honorable Mention to the BigTen teams. Veronica Rood won the "Big Ten Sportsmanship Award" handed out to one player per team. She's awarded for being:
individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.
Congrats to all four of our players honored tonight, now go get ready to take on Niagara.
Beat the Purple Eagles.
Recent blogpost: NCAA Tourney Preview
I'm not one for rehashing press releases, but this information is timely and would be lost in a second on the board. Per mgoblue:
Positioned in the Stanford regional, the Wolverines (24-9 overall) will face Niagara in first-round action on Friday (Dec. 4) at 7:30 p.m.[…]
The U-M/NU winner will face the winner of the OU/UND match in second-round action Saturday (Dec. 5) at 7:30 p.m.
Volleyball season ticket holders can purchase tickets beginning Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 8:30 a.m. by calling the U-M Ticket Office. Tickets will be available to the public by phone, internet and in person at the U-M Ticket Office beginning Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 1 p.m. Seating is general admission. All tickets will be held at will call. Advanced sales are all-session tickets only. Single-Session tickets must be purchased at the door. Doors open one hour prior to the event.
Everyone (except children under two) must have a ticket. The first 500 U-M students with a valid Mcard will be admitted free and must pick up a ticket at the arena by 7:30 p.m. Faculty and staff are NOT admitted free with Mcards for postseason events.
All-Session tickets are priced at $10 for an adult, $6 for seniors and students, and $4 for children 3-12 (children two years and under free with paid adult). Single-Session tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $4 for children 3-12 (children two years and under free with paid adult).
Emphasis mine. There is a good chance that all the full session seats will sell out in the first few hours.
Notre Dame will play Ohio at 5:30pm on Friday, and their game should end before Michigan takes the court. I've got an email into the volleyball SID to ask about how many single session tickets will be reserved and if they (single session tickets for Michigan/Niagara) will be available an hour before the ND/Ohio game or an hour before our game, and I'll update here when I hear back.
As for you students, there's a good chance the 500 may go quickly. I suggest getting there a little early if you want to get in for free.
- MSU (17-11, 5-11, RPI: 33) @ #14 Michigan (22-7, 10-6, RPI: 13)
- Wednesday November 18
- Cliff Keen Arena
- TV: BigTenNetwork
- Radio: MGoBlue
Michigan returns to the floor for it's second Wednesday night special of the season against Michigan State as the two teams set out to battle for the State Pride Flag. Michigan currently leads the race including a 3-0 win over MSU by scores 33-31, 25-22, and 26-24. That's really close for a 3-0 sweep, and by all indications, that'll probably be the case again tonight.
Momentum Coming In
Michigan enters this game on a 3 game winning streak, but all three of those wins came against the 3 of the bottom four teams in the BigTen. To make it sound worse, two of those games involved Michigan squeaking by in 5 sets. That's not the way a top 15 team should be winning.
The Spartans also have struggled of late, including losing 3 of their last four. One of those losses was a respectable sweep by Illinois (the Illini are a top ten team), but the other two came at the hands of Northwestern and Indiana, teams guaranteed to finish the conference season with a losing record.
A little bit has changed since the last time Michigan faced the Spartans. In that last game, Lexi Zimmerman dislocated her thumb, and that has definitely made a noticeable difference in the team's play. While Lexi's thumb should be getting closed to healed. The last time I saw it was two weeks ago, still wrapped in the support brace. In the picture to the right, from mgoblue, you can see the thumb wrap at it's largest. You can also see some excellent control of her body.
Another player that has been missing is middle blocker Courtney Fletcher. While I don't have the exact diagnosis, her being on crutches with the ankle soft cast (or that's what it appeared to be, feel free to leave what you know in the comments) is still a fixture on the sidelines. Karlee Bruck has taken her place on the court, and has done well so far. Bruck was the starter to finish last season and has plenty of experience. She should be a solid replacement on the net.
The real loss with Fletcher's injury is on the serve. Bruck's serve is the reason she lost her starting job to Courtney in the first place. To try and keep a solid 6th server, Coach Rosen has been using Maggie Busch as a defensive specialist as a substitute. Busch has already had 7 service aces on the season, but she's very inconsistent, claiming 7 service errors as well.
What to Watch
While I think Michigan should be a heavy favorite across the board in this game, the Wolverines have been letting too many teams stay in close games. With teams like Indiana and Purdue, our team's talent can pull through. Against Michigan State, they'll have that added motivation which could really hurt Michigan. We need to keep the intensity high and not take the boot off their throats. If Michigan starts to let MSU go on any 5-0 run or better and we haven't called timeout, I'll start to worry.
Oh, and we need to cut down on the service errors.
Again, I'm not sold on these charts yet, but I think they may put a couple things in perspective.
|Serve Errors/Game||2.5||Serve Errors/Game||1.9||MSU|
|Passing Errors||29||Passing Errors||37||Michigan|
The #11 Michigan team will face #9 Minnesota in Minneapolis Saturday night (8pmET). The game will be streamed live over the BigTenNetwork.com's new video player. This will be Michigan's first appearance on the new video player, and should be a solid matchup. The cost will be $2.99 (Note: $5 cheaper than the hockey game against BU, which is available through BU's SID for $7.95. BTN is a steal).
Also worth noting, this will be another game where the hosting team moves to a bigger arena (Williams Arena) in order to get a big crowd in against Michigan. Minnesota is expecting around 10k in attendance. That's awesome.
The Golden Gophers enter the game at 15-2 (pending the outcome Friday night at Michigan State), but they suffered a huge setback this week. Brook Dieter, a Second Team All-American last year and current leader in kills for the Gophers, spontaneously quit the team earlier in the week. Not much is really known on what happened. The team captain Gibbemeyer mentioned "personal reasons," while coach Herbert claims it was a "earning playing time" issue. Either way, Dieter and senior setter Carico were both benched against Northwestern last weekend. It sounds like Carico, who is second in the BigTen in assists, should be back in the starting rotation by this weekend.
Taking the place of Dieter is junior Hailey Cowles, a defensive player turned outside hitter. This move makes no sense to me having not seen the Gophers very much, but while reading through some of the comments on those Dieter articles, it doesn't sound like it makes much sense to some of the more informed commenters:
Do you really believe that replacing Brook Dieter (hitting at a pretty good, but not outstanding 0.250 pace) with Hailey Cowles (hitting at an astonishing 0.061 pace) at left side hitter will improve the team? I consider this incident a train wreck [compared to their women's basketball team with a similar experience a few years ago] - dmhopstock
I would guess that Cowles as the OH will not last. Soon, Wilson will move to OH and Harms will play OPP. As good an all-around player as Cowles is, she is not tall/long enough to be successful against premier teams. She will return to her DS position and Harms' athleticism will shine. - fahningm
They sound like they have a decent idea of what's going on, but they are just commenters on a newspaper website, so take it FWIW.
Minnesota definitely looks vulnerable. They were swept by Penn State and Illinois in consecutive games before handling a weak Northwestern team 3 sets to 1 over their last three games.
Michigan will definitely try to test Cowles as Michigan will have a height advantage for perhaps the first time all season. Cowles is 5'10", perhaps the shortest outside hitter we've faced in the BigTen so far. Dieter was one of Minnesota's better blockers with .64 blocks per set (10 solos and 31 assists). That'll be a huge loss for the Gophers.
Add that Michigan is coming off their best defensive game in a while, this loss of Dieter could be huge. Donhoff had a great game against State, which probably went unnoticed by most casual observers. It helped that our block had plenty of tips up. I really want to see that intensity at the net happen in this game as well.
Here's where things start to get dicey for Michigan. In the middle of the last game, Lexi Zimmerman dislocated her thumb. She was playing with obvious pain, and she was sporting a hand brace. While she finished the game against State, we'll have to see how much she plays over the next few games. Most dislocations take a few weeks to fully heal, and really bad ones can knock a player out for 2-3 weeks.
I imagine if had been that bad, the trainers wouldn't have let Lexi play, no matter how much her game day adrenaline would have allowed Lexi to keep going. I'm expecting to see Lexi start, but at the first sign of aggravation, I wouldn't be surprised to see Yager enter the game.
Yager is expected to be a great setter by the time she makes the starting lineup. She was ranked #41 overall in the nation by volleyballprep.com in last year's volleyball recruiting class.
Yager made a brief appearance in the game on Wednesday, but you could tell she was just a freshman setting. Her sets weren't nearly as quick or crisp as Lexi's, and it allowed State to get a few points Michigan probably wouldn't have given up. That said, Lexi made a few bad sets due to the thumb. It'll be interesting to see who plays how much and how well.
I kind of like the one I did for Michigan State. It's not perfect, and I'm still trying to figure out what I call a push versus a true advantage, especially with Aces per Game versus Server Reception Errors per Game (SR Errors/Game) or Attack Percentage versus Blocks per Game. Bear with me. Comments on how to improve it are welcome.
|Aces/Game||1.7||SR Errors/Game||0.9||MICH||SR Errors/Game||0.6||PUSH|
|Serve Errors/Game||2.73||Serve Errors/Game||1.64||MINN||Serve Errors/Game||1.24||MINN|
|Passing Errors||18||Passing Errors||12||MINN||Passing Errors||10||MINN|
|AVG Oppo RPI||68.1||AVG Oppo RPI**||63.9||PUSH||-||-||-|
- *Doesn't include Friday against MSU
- **Doesn't include MSU's RPI, which being around #18, will help weight it down to ~61.6 average opponent RPI
So with Dieter, I would have given the edge to Minnesota in just statistics, not to mention the home court advantage. With Dieter out of the lineup, Michigan picks up quite a few more matchups. That's a big drop in kills/game and even digs/game. I think the backups will be able to handle the digs, so that may not be such a big advantage for Michigan, but the kills… that'll hopefully be the game breaker.
Some of the ones Michigan still losses are also deceiving, such as service errors per game and attack percentage as Minnesota removed about 1/5 to 1/4 of their attempts on the season, inflating the overall totals. I don't think you can just assume that the backups will produce nearly as well as Dieter.
I'm liking our chances to get a big road win, but I'm in no way confident enough to pick an outright win. I could see this game going any number of different ways. If I had to buckle down and guess, though, I see Michigan victorious in 4 sets.
The match begins at 8ET (7pm local), so for those interested and with $3 to spare, check out the BTN.com. It should still be a good one.
(all pictures from MGoBlue.com)