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]
FYI, Volleyball game is pushed to 10p ET on CBS Sports. I can't find a stream, but if you find it, share the length.
MGoBlue has a CiL and I've got my fingers crossed the CiL curse sticks to just this site.
Supposedly Nebraska has a radio feed, but I can't test it due to internet tubes being dumped on like a big old truck.
Three sports are in action this weekend as the volleyball and field hockey teams join the women's soccer in the official season.
Women's soccer will be starting things off with a Friday night visit to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. UW-M is hosting a "Milwaukee Cup" series where Michigan will face off with the home team tonight (Friday, 8p ET) and Marquette on Sunday (2p ET). Rain is in the forecast, but the teams will play through.
UW-M is currently 0-0-2 with two 0-0 ties with Northwestern and Wisconsin. Both of those BigTen teams are picked to finish better than Michigan in the coaches' preseason poll. The historic series between Michigan and UW-M has Michigan ahead with one outright win and a loss by penalty kicks in the 2006 NCAA tournament. UW-M will be tough to beat at home where they haven't lost since 2007, but if Michigan can play solid defense, they could pull the upset.
Marquette should be a more manageable game for the Wolverines as they are not a very high scoring team themselves. Marquette likes to spread the ball around, but none of last years starters managed more than 3 goals over the course of the season.
The ACC/BigTen Challenge starts Saturday at Iowa City, IA as the Wolverines take on #4 North Carolina at 3p ET. The team will also play on Sunday against #2 Wake Forest. Michigan's going to have a heck of a time trying to upset either team. Unlike the basketball version of the challenge, teams aren't necessarily matched up by rank. In this case, Michigan will be lucky to squeak out a win.
For more on the field hockey team, check out the season preview.
Juliana Paz says bring on Nebraska
Volleyball has the national spot light, or at least as national as CBS College Sports. The Wolverines take on Nebraska tonight at 9:30pm ET and Kansas State tomorrow at 7pm ET. This is a big moment for the women's volleyball team as they want to prove themselves out of the gate. MGoBlue's SID will have a CiL liveblog going for both games, and I encourage MGoBloggers with or without access to the game stop in and discuss.
See our Volleyball Season Preview here.
Also, anyone who may be able to get (a) torrent(s) of the game(s), I'd +1 you forever.
Update (Friday 7:50p): While watching the Minnesota/K-State match, I can already see that our game is going to be a VERY pro-Nebraska announcing. I've seen 5 clips of CornHuskers in the stands in the last 20 minutes. But one interesting nugget has also come out during those breaks, Nebraska has 8 players in their lineup that have no college experience. If Michigan can take advantage of that inexperience, it would be huge.
K-State is playing pretty sloppy. Their ball handling is very sporadic. I can't get a good read on Minnesota yet. Their MB is nailing the 0-sets really well, but she hasn't been blocking well at all. Half way through set two, I don't think Minnesota has registered a block. K-State is having trouble with the slide to the right. I don't know if Bower will be able to place as well as this Minnesota RS.
Minnesota just went up 2-0 on them 25-19, 25-16. I'm liking our chances for tomorrow already.
Update II (Friday 9:30p): KSU made me eat my words as the 3rd and 4th they played awesome and even forced a 5th. Their outside hitter really got into a groove at the net and at the serve. Perhaps the first two sets were just nervous energy.
Due to the 5 set game, Michigan's starting time is now looking like 10p ET
Update III (Saturday 3:55p): Soccer was blown out in the 2nd half for a final 0-6 loss. Ouch. Field Hockey just started the 2nd half. It's 0-0 in the 45th minute (out of 70), but Michigan is being outshot 7-1.
Update IV (Saturday 5:25p): Field Hockey jumped ahead 1-0 but gave up 2 goals in the last 15 minutes to drop their first game of the season. Michigan took only 2 shots, both on goal, both by Meridith Way. By contrast, UNC took 21 shots, 12 were on goal, by 9 different TarHeels.
Continuing our preseason looks at Olympic sports, aka non-revenue, today we look at the #16 ranked* women's volleyball team. The volleyball team tips off on CBS College Sports later this week, as they face off in the Runza/AVCA Showcase, the premiere early season tournament in NCAA volleyball. Michigan opens with #3 Nebraska, who is virtually hosting event in one hour from campus in Omaha, NE, at 9:30pm (EDT). The second game for the Wolverines will be against #22 Kansas State on Saturday at 7pm (EDT), yet again on CBS College Sports. Tune in and cheer on your Wolverines. And yes, there is a hype video. And it is awesome.
If you're in the Omaha area, you can get tickets for individual matches for $16.50 (plus whatever surcharges ticketmaster adds on if you go that route), or $28 (again, possible extra ticketmaster charges) for a two day pass. And yes, they can charge that amount that close to Lincoln, where volleyball is almost as big as football.
The volleyball team became a varsity sport in 1973 as part of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), the women's sports association prior to the NCAA sanctioning women's sports. As the NCAA pretends AIAW and all it's statistics don't exist, Michigan volleyball's overall record is broken down into different categories. In the AIAW, Michigan compiled a record of 148-120-7 (.553) including games against 2 year schools and Canadian schools. Since joining the NCAA, Michigan has compiled a record of 412-417 (.497) against 4-year US schools only. If you throw in the smaller schools, Michigan has a 574-552-7 (.510) record.
Michigan has 11 post season appearances, including 9 NCAA tournaments in the last 12 seasons. Eight of those NCAA appearances came under the direction of current coach Mark Rosen(pictured below and right). Rosen is starting his 11th year at Michigan, which ties him with Sandy Vong (pictured above), Michigan's first ever volleyball coach, for the longest tenure among Michigan volleyball coaches. In Rosen's time, he's amassed a 189-132 (.589), but has never had a team finish higher than 5th in conference. Despite the conference record, Michigan has made it to the Sweet 16 in the past season the last two years.
The 2008 season was expected to be a rebuilding year for the Wolverines. They lost the Michigan all time leader in kills Katie Bruzdzinski, all time blocks leader Lyndsay Miller, and all time digs leader Stesha Selsky. That's some considerable loses. Despite the loss of such all time greats, Michigan also returned a few very strong players in setting Lexi Zimmerman, middle blocker Beth Karpiak, defensive specialist turned libero Kerry Hance, right side hitter Megan Bower, and outside hitter Veronica Rood. Karpiak was as dominant as they come out of the BigTen and Zimmerman came into the season as one of the conferences best setters.
Michigan would start the season hot with a 13-0 run including the BigTen opener at Ohio State. Things were going well – then, the reality of the BigTen season kicked in. Michigan went 12-8 over the conference season tied for the second highest in Wolverine BigTen history. In individual games, Michigan went 44-15 on the year, which is damn impressive. Michigan went 9-3 in matches going 3 sets, 11-6 in matches lasting 4 sets, and 0-3 in full five set matches. This was a big step forward in BigTen volleyball for program as Michigan finished 5th in conference.
Michigan ultimately went on to the NCAA tournament to upset Kentucky and Saint Louis to reach the Sweet 16 where they ran into perennial power Nebraska. Michigan finished the year 27-9, the best season record (by percentage) in the history of the program.
This Season's Players
The Wolverines only lose two players from last year's squad in Kerry Hance and Beth Karpiak. Expectations are high and rightfully so. Michigan returns the league's top setting Lexi Zimmerman. Zimmerman made the Honorable Mention list for All American as a freshman in 2007 and made the Second Team All American in 2008. She is the unsung star of the team. Her 2008 season saw her garner 11.37 assists, 1.37 kills and 2.65 digs per set. Her assist rate was second in the conference to only Penn State's Alisha Glass.
Zimmerman's two top targets will be outside hitter Juliana Paz and left side hitter Alex Hunt. Paz, a senior, lead the the team with 3.31 kills last year with some outstanding power in her hits. The native Brazilian also ranked second on the team in service aces last season with 33. Hunt is a left handed sophomore. As a freshman, she registered 243 kills, good for fourth on the team. Hunt was named to the Freshman All-BigTen team for her efforts and joined the US Junior National team.
On the right side, Megan Bower will be returning after finishing last season with 282 kills – third most on the team. Bower offers both power and a little bit of extra height at 6"-1' to help with blocking. Also returning on the right side is Cassie Petoskey. Petoskey is a native of Ann Arbor, going to Pioneer High School and comes from a long line of Michigan athletes. Her father lettered in wrestling, her grandfather in football, and her great uncle in 3 different sports. Even her brother plays for the lacrosse team. Cassie is as tough as they come, she even wrestled in middle school. She'll see more playing time this year than the last couple.
In the middle, the loss of Beth Karpiak is huge, but we have a couple good options returning. Red shirt sophomore Karlee Bruck really came on strong last year as the second middle blocker in Michigan's rotation. Last year, she finished with 13 solo blocks, second only to Karpiak, but she also lead the team with 90 block assists. Her hitting percentage was also pretty good at .278, but there is definitely room for improvement. Middle blockers generally have the highest hitting percentages on the team as they are generally a misdirection play.
Also rotating into the middle this year will be Veronica Rood. Rood is a converted outside hitter. As a junior, she didn't see that much time on the court, but her height at 6-1 should give her a little bit of an edge on blocking. I also wouldn't be surprised to see her being a bit more of a free swinger in the middle as compared to Bruck.
In the back court, Michigan returns Sloane Donhoff and Maggie Busch. Donhoff will be making the move to libero to start the season. Last year, as a freshman, Sloane was immediately put into a position to become the primary defensive specialist on the team. She finished the year with 321 digs, tied for third most on the team. Donhoff was also a very productive server, knocking in 43 service aces, the most on the team and second most in the BigTen. Busch, a junior, saw time in 120 different sets last season, but never for very long. She registered only 42 digs and 28 service aces over the whole season.
Michigan faces a tough schedule right out of the gate this year. Michigan faces the #3 and #22 teams in the nation this weekend in the American Volleyball Coaches Association tournament in Omaha, NE. This will be the eighth time in fifteen years that Michigan opens with a top 15 opponent. In all, Michigan will play 6 different teams ranked in the AVCA preseason poll and another three also receiving votes.
After the first weekend, the rest of Michigan's non-conference schedule shouldn't be too difficult. Tennessee is the biggest name on the list, but they are only in the receiving votes category of the current preseason poll. Heading into BigTen play, one would expect Michigan to have at least a 10-3 record, but even that might be a slight disappointment.
The conference season will be a bit tougher. The BigTen is a big volleyball conference. Penn State is the obvious favorite as they have not lost a game since September of 2007. They also return 4 All Americans and 10 letter winners. Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota are also projected to be strong this year. Michigan has not won a game in Madison, WI in over 16 years. Even Michigan State has a strong team.
Looking at the schedule, I think Michigan could start the BigTen season 4-4. Each week has one very winnable game and one that could be extremely tough. In Michigan's favor, though, is the 4 game home stand from November 13th to November 20th. This stretch will help Michigan lessen any possible gaps that may form in the standings, setting up a season finale with Penn State that could potentially mean something. That might be a pretty lofty goal (challenging Penn State for the conference title), but it's not totally out of the idea either.
If you haven't been out to Cliff Keen Arena for a volleyball game, you are really missing out. Volleyball has some of the loudest and most loyal fans at the university, averaging just over 900 per match. Even the old blue hairs get up and cheer on the maize and blue. Just ask anyone about the super old guy that used to always be in the front row dancing along. I'm not sure if he makes it out to every game, but he was always one of my favorite UM personalities. Even "The Zone" is one of the strongest student sections on campus. It's its own mini-Maize Rage.
As mentioned, the team starts the season off against Nebraska in Nebraska's own back yard. The tournament is being hosted in Omaha, NE, just over an hour from Lincoln and the University of Nebraska. The CornHuskers take volleyball very seriously and will easily fill up 15,000 seats or more. The crowd will be hostile, but Michigan will be hoping to do the same thing they did to #10 Hawaii in 2007 by going up early and taking the crowd out of the game. A win over Nebraska isn't very likely, but if it would, it would be one heck of a statement to start the year. The game against Kansas State on Saturday will be a much bigger litmus test on just how ready this team is to compete past the Sweet 16 this year. If the Wolverines handle KSU, they will be serious contenders not only for the BigTen conference, but in the NCAA as well.
This weekend the volleyball team is taking on some substantial opponents and will be televised on CBS College Sports. While I'll preview this a little bit more over the next two days, I'm unable to TIVO/record the games. Can anyone volunteer to get a copy and post it on mgovideo?
The games are:
Fri Aug 28 Nebraska 8:30p.m. CDT CBS College Sports
Sat Aug 29 Kansas State 6 p.m. CDT CBS College Sports
Any help would be appreciated.
I'm going to be putting together a diary in the coming weeks in which MGoBlog readers will get to pick their favorite M team uniforms (varsity & club varsity).
I need a little help from those involved in the athletic program, or who follow the down-ticket sports.
If you'd like to be of assistance, I could use help with the following
1. Photo shout-out. If you got any good exemplary images of any team, send to misopogon at att dot net.
2. Thoughts on throwbacks: I want to include some of the more important throwbacks, since not every great M uniform is currently in use. Good idea/bad idea? Which are the most iconic that would warrant inclusion?
3. Swimming caps: I've seen the women wearing a cap with M's classic wings and stripes, but not the fellas. Anyone care to inform as to when/if our buoyant brethren and naiant1 sistren sport the wings rather than the block-M designs?
4. Peruse the list below and tell me if there are any unis (classic or modern) that have been omitted.
m baseball blue
m baseball maize
m baseball white
m baseball white alt pinstripes vest
m basketball blue
m basketball maize
m basketball white
w basketball maize
w basketball white throwback diane deitz
w basketball white
w cheerleading maize
w cheerleading white
w cheerleading white throwback
m cross country blue
w cross country blue
w field hockey blue vest
w field hockey maize vest
w field hockey maize shirt
w field hockey white vest
m football blue
m football white
m football white throwback
m golf maize
w golf maize
w golf white
m gymnastics blue
w gymnastics blue
m hockey blue
m hockey blue throwback block m
m hockey maize
m hockey maize throwback script
m hockey white alt
m hockey white throwback
m lacrosse maize
m lacrosse white
w lacrosse blue
w lacrosse blue
w lacrosse white
w rowing blue
m soccer blue
m soccer white
w soccer blue
w soccer white
w softball blue
w softball white
m&w swimming & diving blue
m&w swimming & diving maize
w swimming & diving blue winged
w syncro skating blue
w syncro swimming maize (actually it's red)
m tennis blue
m tennis maize
w tennis blue
w tennis maize
m track & field blue
w track & field blue
w volleyball white
w water polo blue
m wrestling blue
1. Naiant is a term from heraldry that means "fish swimming horizontally"