"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
That's going to be blocked
The picture above (and all others in this post are by MGoBlue.com) has to summarize the match better than I can. Here we see Megan Bower going for a kill. On the other side of the net is Goliath, also known as a 6'5" Australian by the name of Rourke. This giant registered 25 kills and 5 service aces. To put that in perspective, her closest teammate had 7 kills.
Adding insult to injury, this picture is just one of 12 blocks by Oregon State. Oregon State's Ashley Eneliko had 6 block assists. Five different Beavers had a solo block. We just weren't on hitting the ball in this game.
Lexi is good but can do only so much on poor passes
Michigan ended up with three players in double digit kills on the game in Veronica Rood, Alex Hunt, and Juliana Paz, but it just wasn't enough. Hunt never seemed to get going in this match. Her hitting percentage was hovering around .065 until very late in the third set. That's not going to win games. She also had an off night at the service line. One game after setting the Michigan record for aces in a game, she came out and posted 0 aces and 3 service errors.
Paz even had a fairly off game. I don't know if it was the blocks, or if it was due to a calf injury (it was taped according to commenter Other Chris), but she just wasn't her normal dominating self. Very few times did she hit the ball with her usual authority. Suffice to say, when our top two hitters are off, Michigan is in for trouble.
One of the bright spots in this was the play of Veronica Rood. She placed 10 kills and offered a great change of pace when our outside hitters were struggling. It seemed like whenever Michigan came out of timeouts, Rood became the primary option, but then faded slowly out of the picture as Michigan tried to get their outside hitters in rhythm. As I said, that didn't really happen until the very end of the last set, far too late.
The most concerning thing going forward has little to do with attacking offense as it does communication on defense. Over the last two weeks, Michigan has become sloppy on defense, allowing at least 2-3 balls per game to just fall between three players, who sometimes are all running away from the ball.
I can't see these games, so I'm not entirely sure who to pin the blame on. Most of these seem to come off tipped blocks, which makes me suspect our back row play by our hitters is still really slow. As an example of this was when Alex Hunt was substituted for Michelle McMahon following one of these misplayed balls. Perhaps Hunt just hasn't become comfortable in the back row yet and is slow in reacting to tipped balls. See the picture above. That's a desperation dive, but most likely on a serve judging by the position of Sloane and Juliana.
Paz also had trouble in the back, but most of hers were on serves. Rourke's 5 aces came mainly at the expense of Juliana. Paz also was involved in some of the lost balls.
In the long run, this game came down to Michigan beating itself up just as much as Rourke's excellent play did. After Michigan blew a 12-2 lead in the first set, momentum went completely to the Beavers and Michigan looked lost. Michigan was begging for the refs to bail them out by calling nonexistent tips and kept making mental mistakes. Oregon State just kept attacking, and they had just enough luck on the balls rolling over the net. It seemed to demoralize Michigan.
This game really reminded me of Michigan's play over the last few years. We are a good team that just couldn't put it all together in any set. We kept it close on raw talent alone. We lost it on our own mental toughness. This whole game was a disappointment, especially with the crowd that showed up, supposedly 2,673. Most of those left before the second set was finished.
Michigan finished 2nd in the tournament, and placed three players on the All-Tournament team in Zimmerman, Paz, and Rood. In a more dubious fashion, Michigan also cemented Tournament MVP for Rourke.
Michigan opens BigTen play at Indiana on Friday. MGoBlue will have live stats and a CiL. More on that in next week's Michigan sports weekend.
I'm going to interview Coach Rosen in the next day or so. I'm working on a list of questions, and thought I'd open it up for questions that you the readers/fans would like to know.
If you have a question you'd like to submit, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll see what I can fit in.
Big tournament this weekend. Get pumped.
This weekend is a big home weekend for many of the Michigan sports. Volleyball is hosting their first game as this diary is being posted, field hockey hosts a pair of teams, and men's soccer also plays host to a pair of opponents. Golf also opens this weekend on the road, while women's soccer and cross country also hit the road. Paul is also looking to make a few appearances to games this weekend. Hopefully we'll get another solid post from him.
- Friday 12:30p vs Fairfield,
- Friday 7:30p vs Morehead State,
- Saturday 12:30 vs VCU,
- Saturday 7:30p vs Missouri
Volleyball is hosting the Michigan Challenge this weekend (full schedule here), and there will be games starting from 10am to 7:30p both today Friday and tomorrow Saturday. Michigan faces off with the above mentioned teams, none of which are ranked.
Michigan played a bit sloppy against EMU earlier in the week, playing down to the Eagles level. Michigan did allow the subs to finally get in some quality PT during the match, and did well to fight back when behind. That said, they should never have let EMU get ahead. Photo on the right by Eastern Michigan Athletics
#26 ranking (also receiving votes section), 2-1-0 record
- Friday 7:30p vs
- Sunday 2:30p vs
Michigan soccer is also hosting an invitational this weekend. Neither opponent is expected to give Michigan many problems.
#20 ranking, 1-3 record
- Saturday 12p vs #5 Connecticut
- Sunday 1p vs Ball State
Connecticut will be a tough game for Michigan, but it is the home opener, so hopefully Michigan can use a bump from the home football crowd who may show up a bit early and give some extra home field advantage (hint hint). Connecticut is coming off a weekend where they defeated #11 Penn State in State College. They will be tough. Ball State is 2-2 with a loss to #30 Villanova.
Unranked, 3-3-0 record
- Friday 5p (ET) at Cal State-Fullerton
- Sunday 3p (ET) at Southern California
Cal State-Fullerton is winless thus far in the season (0-4) but will be an interesting road test for Michigan. USC also hasn't been that strong this season, posting a 1-3-0 record, with that one win coming over Cal State-Fullerton.
- Men's: Friday 5:30p @ State College, Pa
Michigan is sending 10 runners for the 5.2 mile race. This race is being hosted by Penn State, and the course will approximate the the Nov. 1st BigTen Conference Championship course. Picture on right by Mark Vloet, posted at MGoBlue.
- Women's: Saturday/Sunday @ East Lansing, MI
- Men's: Saturday/Sunday @ Zionsville, IN
The women are facing a par 72 and 6,237 yards on the Forest Akers West Golf Course. The match is 54 holes, 36 on day one, 18 on day two. Five players per team will play, with the lowest four scores per round counting. This will be the first tournament for Coach Cheryl Stacy, who was promoted from assistant coach to head coach this year.
- The #21 ranked men's team also faces a par 72, but at 7,465 yards at the Wolf Run Country Club. They too face 54 holes, 36 on day one and 18 on day two. Michigan has had success at Wolf Run, winning the team title last year, and having a now-alumnus medaling as an individual two years ago.
Friday 1:45p: Volleyball Won 3-0, 25-9(!), 25-17, 25-16. Subs and freshmen made it into this game as it was all Michigan, all game. Zimmerman (.727 hitting percentage! on 11 attempts) and Paz each had 8 kills to lead the team. Hunt had plenty of attempts, but just wasn't landing the points. We held Fairfield to a .066 hitting percentage, which is just absolutely ridiculous. They were definitely overmatched.
Friday 11:30p: Everything is done for the night, and the only game Michigan lost was in women's soccer. Michigan lost 0-2 to Cal State-Fullerton, but the game was closer than what it appeared. Michigan put two balls into net, one being called back by an off sides call and another by a foul call.
The game was particularly rough (21 total fouls), leading to a pair of red cards (one per team) and a pair of penalty kicks (also one per team). Amanda Bowery was the red card for Michigan, as she and a CSF player were both ejected at the same time, making me guess there was a women's soccer fight.
Men's soccer went much better with a 3-0 win over
Lipscomb Wright State. Mauro Fettuzi doubled his goal total tonight from 2 to 4 with a pair of set play goals. He converted a penalty kick and a free kick for goals. Freshman Kofi Opare had the game winner.
Men's cross country also saw a Michigan victory in less than favorable conditions of mud and wetness. Michigan came in with a final score of 25, with the next closest teams coming in at 40, 81 and 126 (just for perspective). Michigan had five players finish in the top ten, including Bobby Aprill in second place with a time of 26 minutes, 27 seconds.
Correction: I had the men's soccer schedule backwards. It has been corrected there and in the Friday 11:30p update.
Saturday 5:30p: Volleyball won 3-0 over VCU in the early afternoon. Michigan won by scores of 25-11, 25-17, and 26-24. Juliana Paz had a ridiculous 8 service aces. She and Alex Hunt shared the lead with 14 kills a piece. The VCU coach received a yellow card for being a bit too animated.
Field hockey was last seen being down 5-1 with Bryn Bain netting the only goal. Christi Barwick saw some time in goal after Paige Pickett gave up 4 goals on 4 shots on goal against in just the first 28 minutes of play. Barwick only had 2 shots on goal against her, but she also gave up a goal.
The bottom line: UM swept, 25-19, 31-29, 25-20. You can read about it at http://mgoblue.com/volleyball/article.aspx?id=184662. UM beat Tennessee, host Xavier, and ND in the three-day tournament, and are now 5-0 on the year.
Couple of observations from the match:
1. Juliana Paz is a beast. You know how when you watch women’s team sports and there’s often one or two players who just play differently from everyone else (struggling not to use the phrase “play like men”)? That’s Juliana. She’s got a nice vertical, a whip of an arm swing, and is super intense.*
2. On that note, the whole team is very intense, especially Megan Bower. She has the look that was once written about in a theme song for a boxing movie. I liked how she encouraged her teammates but also didn’t suffer foolish plays gladly. She got after her teammates, and I’d wager that they don’t want to get on her bad side.
3. The other terminator on the team is Alex Hunt. She’s a lefty, but plays on the left side (I think she follows the setter Zimmerman). I found this strange, since lefties are usually more effective on the right side. Maybe her blocking isn’t up to snuff, I don’t know. Anyway, she hits what people call a “heavy ball.” Very little rotation on it, and in fact her arm swing isn’t particularly impressive, but she really drives it.
4. Lexi Zimmerman, the setter, is a lot of fun to watch. Very athletic, but also very clever with the ball. She had 4 or 5 kills on dumps to the middle of the floor, but also 2 or 3 more on shots to the deep right corner. I thought her left-side and middle setting were only average, but she's among the best I've seen at flicking it to the right side. She set a back slide in the first game off a really tight pass that made the crowd gasp. Also, her two left-side hitters really make her look good (Paz hit .385 on 39 attacks and Hunt hit a ludicrous .458 on 24 attacks).
5. It was an interesting match in that UM didn’t overpower ND at the net, especially in terms of blocking. I’d say blocking was the weakest part of UM’s game. Attacking, digging, and especially passing are where UM gets it done. I would say that the only phase of the game in which UM clearly outplayed ND was in passing, with Zimmerman’s athletic ability a close second. In other words, the ND setter was probably better at just delivering a hittable ball to the outside, but she wasn’t nearly as able to improvise off a poor pass. So, with UM’s overall better passing and Zimmerman’s ability to make something out of a poor pass, UM usually had better scoring opportunities on every play.
Finally, I would encourage people who live in A2 (and other B11 towns) to go to some matches this year. The team is a lot of fun to watch. Paz, Hunt, and Zimmerman are truly worth the (likely very low) price of admission.
I’ve seen a few matches at Cliff Keen over the years when the team wasn’t very good. I hear good things about how raucous it’s been lately, and the quality of the team this year (and last, of course) should only serve to feed the fans.
* I also may or may not be more than a little in love with her.
Things got busy with the jihad and my real life getting in the way. Let's take a quick look at what happened the last few days and what is on tap this weekend.
Oh yeah, there's a home football game this weekend. Not much else is going on around campus as almost every sport is on the road on Friday or Saturday. Only X-Country has a home meet, which isn't anywhere near campus.
#22 Men's soccer opened their season with a loss at #15 Notre Dame on Tuesday. The final score was 0-5, an obvious disappointment for the team. To make up for it, look at the ridiculous-looking Domer on the right (picture from MGoBlue). They will look to get their first official W of the season tonight at Drake (8p ET). They will visit Valparasio on Sunday at 4p ET.
The ladies won their first game of the season last night (Thursday) against Central Michigan by the score of 4-3. Four different Wolverines scored on the night, including Jackie Carron who also notched an assist. The offensive explosion is described by Coach Ryan as the product of moving Megan Bowery back to forward instead of a back:
We have worked on those set plays non-stop since preseason and the biggest difference today was having Amanda Bowery up front instead of at the back. When we have her in the back and she has to come up, when they get the ball she has to run all the way back again. We don't want to make her do that all day or she is going to be dead. She didn't get a goal tonight, but she is the kind of player that teams can't deal with. They can't deal with the ball to her, so the next ball comes to someone else. We got a lot of second-chance goals today and I think Amanda's presence on free kicks is tremendous.Good to hear. Highlights from the game via MGoBlue found here. Michigan will host Eastern Michigan on Sunday at 2pm.
The #19 field hockey team struggled last weekend in the ACC/BigTen tournament, which wasn't a huge surprise. Michigan was facing two of the top 5 teams in the country while being in a bit of a rebuilding phase. They will attempt to get their first win of the season tonight at 6pm ET in College Park, MD as they take on Temple. Temple is 1-1 coming into this match, and Michigan is the favorite in this game. The team will then take on #1 Maryland on Maryland's home field Sunday at 1pm ET. I'm personally hoping to keep it respectable (bulletin board material, anyone?).
Following up the greatest win in Michigan volleyball history, Michigan took down #22 Kansas State on Sunday. Michigan came out looking a little sluggish, and they had a flashback of Michigan 2008 in the second set, but they held on to win 3-1. The second set was full of small errors that kept K-State in the game, ultimately allowing the Wildcats to take the set. Juliana Paz was ridiculous though, registering 19 kills and 6 aces. Michigan ended up setting a record for aces in the AVCA/Runza Tournament with 13. Sloane Donhoff was also an unsung hero with a new career high of 19 digs.
The team will be headed to Xavier this weekend to take on Tennessee (being played now), Xavier (Saturday at 5:30p), and Notre Dame (Sunday at noon).
The above link will take you to Friday's CiL hosted by former Wolverine player Erin Moore. She had a great story earlier about beating Tennesse:
As Rich mentioned earlier...one of my all time favorite Michigan moments took place at Tennessee one preseason. We were down 0-2 and getting the third set handed to us when Nicole Poquette ran a two and landed directly on the crease in the floor. It one of those jig saw like wooden floors that pieces together. The floor breaks. We can't play on it. Tenn. has to retape a court on the other side of the floor and we end up winning the match 3-2.Cross Country
Both Men and Women's cross country started the season today (Friday). Woo! Go! Run fast! If I find out more about them, I'll let you know. They just published their schedule this week, and how much about cross country can there really be to investigate? We'll find out, I guess.
UPDATE I (Friday 5:50p): Volleyball wins 3-1. Team effort lead by Paz again. Zimmerman lead the team in digs with 17, but also got in her 42 assists.
UPDATE II (Friday 9p): Field Hockey beats temple 5-1. A second half explosion saw the Wolverines take 14 shots, netting all 5 goals in that period. Three of the goals came off penalty corner plays.
The women's cross country faced off with Eastern Michigan in a non-scoring meet. Michigan placed 8 in the top ten finishers including Danielle Tauro finishing the 5k in 18 minutes and one half second. Coach Mike McGuire:
Danielle [Tauro] ran pretty controlled, and she's going to be our leader this year. We had one fall off the group a little bit, but for the first week I thought it was pretty solid. We've established the benchmark, and we've just got to get better from here.
He would also mention that 4 of the top 8 were freshmen, who are going to need to show up big for Michigan this year.
UPDATE III (Friday10:30p): Men's soccer won 2-1 over Drake. Michigan was outshot 15-7 but came out ahead in the stat that matters - goals. Justin Meram and Chase Tennnant (winner in the 87th minute) both scored for Michigan.
Men's cross country wrapped up their 6k Michigan Open tonight as well. It appears all of the competitors were UM athletes, but some ran as "unattached," including the race winner Lex Williams (18 minutes, 55.3 seconds). Coach Ron Warhurst:
We had a great camp. The kids ran 90 miles a week, so they're tired. But we had to put a uniform on them today. It's really just to get them started. I was really impressed with their going out in 5:24 first mile and then running 5:00, especially up the long hill. [...] Lex [Williams] pushed it. The good thing is they went with it. I was pleased with the freshmen. They ran together. It was a great start, and I'm happy with what I saw.
UPDATE IV (Sunday 10am):
Other than the football game, only one sport was in action on Saturday - the volleyball team against Xavier. The team started slow falling behind 1-5 to open the first set, but were able to tie it back up. Unfortunately, they lost the lead again, and lost their first "first set" of the season by a score of 24-26. The second set also started with a run from Xavier, but this time just 0-3. Michigan would respond though, eventually taking a 5 point lead in the set, ultimately winning 25-23. The third, anchored by a 9-0 run, and fourth sets were much more dominate for Michigan, winning 25-21 and 25-13 respectively.
Juliana Paz had 19 kills and a .302 hitting percentage, Alex Hunt had 12 kills and a team high 3 service aces.
Michigan faces Notre Dame at noon ET today for the tournament championship.
For the last few years, Michigan has been building a name for themselves in volleyball. It wasn't too long ago that Michigan was always a bottom wrung team. Under the tutelage of Coach Mark Rosen, Michigan has scraped its way to respectful. Friday, it took the next step.
In front of a packed house of 5,772 in Omaha, NE, just an hour away from the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln, the Wolverines took on the #3 Cornhuskers in the Runza/AVCA Challenge, the top tournament in the college volleyball regular season. This game was going to be tough; Nebraska has dominated Michigan in 3 games, sweeping Michigan in 3 games each time. The Cornhuskers have only lost once ever in the Qwest Center. Nebraska was coming off yet another Final Four appearance, knocking Michigan out in the same stadium during the Sweet 16 round.
But Michigan came out looking to match the effort of the 2007 season opener against Hawaii in Hawaii. They wanted to take out the crowd early. They wanted to get into the heads of the younger Husker lineup. They did just that. Michigan came out strong early. Juliana Paz and Alex Hunt were putting tremendous pressure on the Huskers front line. Megan Bower and Courtney Fletcher, who wasn't even slated to start until the last minute, were strong on the front, affording Michigan plenty of opportunities for easy passes. Everything clicked. [Full recap after the jump]