The Wolverine

December 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NCAA PREVIEW: VOLLEYBALL Wolverines Earn Seventh Straight NCAA Bid sport) to 1998, consistent success was something that per- petually eluded the Wolverines. In that timespan, the program posted just eight seasons From 1973 (the year Michigan added volleyball as a varsity with records above .500 and, perhaps more glaring, just one appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Since head coach Mark Rosen took over in 1999, however, Michigan has reached new heights. He led the Wolverines to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in his first season at the helm and has missed the Big Dance just twice. Now, the Wolverines are headed back to the NCAA Tourna- ment for the seventh consecutive year, by far the longest tournament streak in program history. "For any coach, player or program, the postseason is an im- portant part of the year. That's why we all play," Rosen said. "We never want to take it for granted. It's certainly not an entitlement. We have to work for it every year. Every team, in the back of their minds all year long, has that as a big goal. It's a very exciting time. You get new opponents, see new venues. With so many young players — six freshmen — hav- ing this experience is really key. "The fact that we have gone so many times is really a tes- tament to the players we've had and the commitment that they have and how hard they've worked. You never want to take it for granted. Only two teams have been every year: Penn State and Stanford. Everyone has those down years when you don't go, and it's no fun to be done right now. That's something we talk about. There is a good percentage of teams that are packed up right now, and we're still play- ing. It's special, and we take a lot of pride in it. Midway through the Big Ten season, it looked as though the NCAA Tournament streak might be in jeopardy. After 11 matches against conference foes, the Wolverines " (23-11) had posted a disappointing 4-7 record. They had put together encouraging performances — such as a hard- fought 3-2 loss to No. 1 Penn State — and dropped win- nable matches, like a 3-0 blanking by rival Michigan State. With nine more matches to right the ship, the season could Junior outside hitter Molly Toon notched a career-high 25 kills when the Wolverines came back from a 2-0 deficit to score an upset against then-No. 4 Nebraska in a key Nov. 12 home contest. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS posting perhaps the most impressive weekend of the sea- son. Michigan avenged an early-season loss to the Spartans by toppling them in East Lansing, 3-1. Then, the night before the Wolverines and Buckeyes met on the gridiron, the two schools duked it out on the court. Then-No. 14 Ohio State was sent off its own court on senior have gone either way. But Michigan posted a 7-2 record down the stretch to secure seventh place in the final Big Ten standings, with a more than strong enough résumé in the toughest conference in the nation to earn an invite to the NCAA Tournament. In a Nov. 12 home contest against then-No. 4 Nebraska, the Wolverines came back from a 2-0 deficit to score a re- sounding upset, led by junior outside hitter Molly Toon who notched a career-high 25 kills. It marked the first time since 2010 that Michigan had overcome a two-game hole to win and the first time since 2009 it had toppled a top-five foe. Several upperclassmen stepped up to help lead the young road, which we know we're going to have to do the rest of the way out. It sets things up well for us. ment. The Wolverines were slated to face Tennessee (22-7), which has notched shutout victories in eight of its last 12 matches, in the first round Nov. 29 at Louisville, Ky. With a win, Michigan would most likely see ninth-ranked Now, the Wolverines turn their focus to the NCAA Tourna- " night with a 3-0 loss. "It was a great weekend to have, going into the postsea- son," Rosen said. "It gives us a lot of confidence to play on the Louisville, the host, in the second round. The Cardinals (29-3) won the Big East championship this season and haven't lost a match since Oct. 8, a 13-match win streak. No team has won a set on Louisville in the last nine matches. "Some people look at it and say, 'Wow, what a tough Wolverines down the stretch. Junior outside hitter Lexi Erwin ranked eighth in the Big Ten in kills (4.02 per set); sophomore setter Lexi Dannemiller paced the offense, rank- ing third in the conference in assists (11.2 per set); and junior middle blocker Jennifer Cross ranked second in the confer- ence in blocks (1.3 per set). The only two losses in the final nine matches both came in the penultimate weekend of the regular season — 3-1 road losses to Northwestern and Illinois. But, just like they had at midseason, the Wolverines bounced back from the stumble, draw,' but I think it's a fair draw," Rosen noted. "If we play well, we have a good chance to win. If we don't play well, we have no chance. And that's how it should be in the NCAA Tournament. "It's going to come down to who can play well over two matches, and then you have a chance to advance. Because of that, I think it also sets you up for the next round. You're not getting creampuff matchups and then all of a sudden hit someone who's very good and say, 'Well, we weren't ready for that. '" — Andy Reid DECEMBER 2012 THE WOLVERINE 83

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