From Portage Northern.
I want to have Juliana Paz's baby... wait
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.