Volleyball Mid-Season Review; MSU tonight

Submitted by MGoBender on October 13th, 2010 at 10:54 AM

Saturday night, while we were doing our best to avoid the bros, the volleyball team upset #6 Illinois at Cliff Keen Arena.  It was a huge game for the spikers with Lexi Zimmerman posting her second career triple double (43 assists, 13 digs and 13 kills) in an epic performance, even for the best volleyball player in the history of the program.  Michigan now sits atop the Big Ten standings at 5-1 along with Illinois and Northwestern.

Senior setter Lexi Zimmerman is a two time All-American.  She's got ups.

This year the volleyball team expected a bit of a transition after making the elite eight and then losing outside hitters Juliana Paz and Megan Bower to graduation.  However the team is off to a scorching 16-2 start to the season, with a loss coming early on to Toledo and more lately at powerhouse Penn State.  How have they done it?  It's been an exciting mix of veterans and rookies for the Maize and Blue:

The Veterans

Everyone knows, or should know Lexi Zimmerman - the two time (soon to be three) All-American setter for the Wolverines.  Lexi is the floor general and has been doing what she does - DOMINATE - all season for the Wolverines.

Junior Alex Hunt needed to step up big this season for the Wolverines and she has.  She led the team with 19 kills against Illinois last Saturday and has shown that she can pick up the slack left by Paz and Bower.

Junior libero Sloane Donhoff anchors the back line for Michigan, routinely leading the team in digs. 

Junior middle blocker Courtney Fletcher got off to a solid start early and is well on her way to surpass her kill totals from last season.

The Newcomers

Several underclassmen have made a big impact on the team this year early on in their careers.  After appearing in only seven sets last season, RS Sophomore Claire McElheny is off to a great start to the 2010 season.  She has started 15 matches for the Wolverines and recorded 10 kills in M's upset of the Illini.  Her contribution has certainly been a big one and helped in the replacement of Paz and Bower.

True freshmen Molly Toon and Jennifer Cross have come on strong and are showing some promise for Michigan's future.  Jennifer Cross, a 6-4 middle blocker, has started 16 times this year for the Wolverines and notched 8 kills and 6 blocks against Illinois.  Molly Toon, daughter of the NFL's Al Toon, came up big in the Wolverines' win over Illinois, notching a career high-tying 9 kills. 

How They Got Here: 16-2 (5-1)

Michigan opened the season at the Toledo Classic, winning their first two games of the year before falling to the host Rockets in the championship game in five sets.  Since then the Wolverines have been on a tear.

M won 12 straight matches including an early season win at Oregon State and sweeps of the Michigan/adidas Invitational and the ASU Sheraton Tournament.

To start Big Ten play, Michigan hosted and defeated Iowa and #15 Minnesota before taking their first conference road trip.  On the road M beat OSU in 4 sets before travelling to Penn State.  While Penn State isn't the beast that they have been in years past (currently standing at 3-3 in B10 play), the Nittany Lions took care of the Wolverines in straight sets.

The Wolverines returned home this past weekend to defeat Wisconsin and Illinois.

Tonight: MSU at 7pm; Saturday #20 Northwestern at 7pm (Live on BTN)

If you want to feel better about little sister, come to Cliff Keen tonight, where the Wolverines should be able to take care of the Spartans.  Alex Hunt currently sits are 989 career kills and the good money says that she will notch kill 1000 against MSU tonight.

As previously mentioned, Northwestern is tied with Michigan atop the Big Ten standings.  So Saturday's matchup is a big one with a lot on the line.  Michigan will head back out on the road so it's important to get this win to set up what could be a great Big Ten season.

Looking Forward

Wed., Oct. 13 vs. Michigan State * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Fri., Oct. 15 vs. No. 20 Northwestern * Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Fri., Oct. 22 at Indiana * TV Bloomington, Ind. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Oct. 23 at Purdue * TV West Lafayette, Ind. 6:00 p.m. ET
Fri., Oct. 29 at Illinois * Champaign, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT
Sat., Oct. 30 at Wisconsin * Madison, Wis. 7:00 p.m. CT
Fri., Nov. 5 vs. Penn State * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Nov. 6 vs. Ohio State * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 6:00 p.m. ET
Fri., Nov. 12 at Minnesota * Minneapolis, Minn. 6:00 p.m. CT
Sat., Nov. 13 at Iowa * Iowa City, Iowa 7:00 p.m. CT
Fri., Nov. 19 vs. Purdue * Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Nov. 20 vs. Indiana * Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Wed., Nov. 24 at Michigan State * East Lansing, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
Sat., Nov. 27 at Northwestern * Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT

If Michigan can go to 7-1 in conference play this week, they set themselves up for a legitimate run at a Big Ten Championship.  The Big Ten is one of the best volleyball conferences in the nation, though, so they'll need to show up every night.  A westernish road trip to Indiana and Purdue should produce two victories, but road games are road games.  It'll be the following week at Illinois where we see what this team is made of.  In their first true road test they fell hard to the Lions.  Can they show up and upset the Illini for the second time on the season?

After four on the road, it doesn't get any easier with Penn State coming to town.  But with Penn State's losses to graduation this could be the year (last year M took them to 5 sets) that Cliff Keen witnesses a victory over the Nittany Lions.

NEEDS MOAR PAZ

I agree.

    

 

Better.

Comments

MGoShoe

October 13th, 2010 at 11:59 AM ^

...post, TFAA.

Here's the current Big Ten Volleyball standings:

 

 

Big Ten

Overall

Team

Record

Pct.

Record

Pct.

Michigan

5-1

.833

16-2

.889

Northwestern

5-1

.833

15-2

.882

Illinois

5-1

.833

13-3

.812

Minnesota

4-2

.667

14-4

.778

Purdue

4-2

.667

13-4

.765

Penn State

3-3

.500

13-4

.765

Indiana

2-4

.333

14-4

.778

Ohio State

2-4

.333

14-5

.737

Michigan State

2-4

.333

10-7

.588

Iowa

1-5

.167

6-9

.400

Wisconsin

0-6

.000

11-6

.647

It's hard to believe that PSU is at 3-3 in the conference.

And here's more Paz (just because):

CO Blue

October 13th, 2010 at 11:27 PM ^

Lexi Zimmerman recorded her second consecutive triple-double (38 assists, 11 kills, 10 digs) and Alex Hunt notched 21 kills as No. 15 U-M beat Michigan State, 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 25-27, 26-24), to improve to 17-2, marking the best start in program history

Fresh of the front page of Mgoblue.com.

Thanks for the update on the volleyball team. Great work.!

JustGoBlue

October 14th, 2010 at 12:39 AM ^

it's incredible that we lost Paz, Bower, Rood and Cassie Petoskey and still have the best start in program history. 

I think mgoblue said that Cross played for the Canadian junior national team, so she was supposed to be a force from the beginning, but you gotta think that even she's exceeding expectations.  Molly Toon has been great, Lexi Erwin and the new DSs (Sabol and Lee) have been extremely solid as well.  On the other side, McElheny, Hunt and Sloane have taken everything up a level as juniors (/RS sophomore) and Lexi has continued to be nothing short of impossible good, but she's even more impossibly good than she was last year. 

I keep thinking that the next tough match they play, their inexperience is finally going to start showing and they're going to lose another game they probably should have won (Toledo), but instead they exceed expectations, beating Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin (who isn't that great of a team, but always has Michigan's number).  They're just a really fun team to watch, hopefully they can continue their run and take a shot at the conference crown and maybe the program's first final 4 appearance.

Even though they lose Lexi next year (whose loss cannot be overstated), they return EVERYBODY else and have a pretty highly touted server in Catherine Yager, who will be a junior, to try and replace Lexi.  So the volleyball team continues to look in excellent shape.

MGoBender

October 14th, 2010 at 8:58 AM ^

Plus one for mentioning Veronica Rood, which I failed to do in the OP - tried to throw it together too quickly.  The entire senior class, not just Paz and Bower, left some big shoes to fill which is why this season is so exciting and intriguing - best start ever after losing 3 key contributors to graduation is nothing short of remarkable.