that's a huge bitch
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.