The Wolverine

January 2013

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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  NCAA tournament: volleyball Wolverines Cap Historic Season With Final Four Appearance Head coach Mark Rosen's volleyball squad found itself in an State and No. 2 Stanford in succession to earn a berth in the all-too-familiar situation in a historic, yet uncharted circumnational semifinals. The feat was a surprise to many, but to stance during the national semifinals against No. 3 Texas. In none in the U-M locker room. U-M's first-ever Final Four appearance, the upstart Maize and "Perceptions and expectations are always different from Blue were blasted 25-11 in the first set. the outside than they are from the inside," said Rosen, who But, as they did all season, has coached in Ann Arbor for Rosen's group bounced back. 14 seasons. "We beat good Michigan, the only team to teams throughout the year take the eventual national and knew we could match up champion Longhorns to five with anybody. Our run wasn't sets during the NCAA Toura surprise to us in that regard. nament, refused to be in"I think how strong we betimidated by its athletically came at the end of the year superior foe and — just as it wasn't necessarily unexdid throughout the tournapected, but something we ment — rallied, winning the cherished. I don't think we next two sets. Although U‑M felt that we upset anybody ultimately dropped the fourth because we knew how talset and was outlasted 15‑11 in ented we were and how we the final set, the resilient percompeted throughout the formance raised the bar for a season." program on the upswing. While the strong push to the "We are so proud of the run finish shone a bright national that this team made at the spotlight upon the Maize and end of the year, and the progBlue, it also vastly increased ress they made throughout expectations for a growing the season," Rosen said. "They program still searching for displayed unbelievable dean identity, and its first Big termination throughout the Ten title in a conference that NCAA Tournament. features the likes of national "We accomplished somejuggernauts Penn State, Nething unprecedented, and braska and Illinois — which something we are really exhave combined for six nacited about." tional championships and Although the excitement of two runner-up finishes since creating school history cannot U-M knocked off Tennessee, No.  9 Louisville, Michigan State and 2000. be denied, most impressive is No. 2 Stanford en route to its first-ever trip to the national semifinals. "Accomplishing something photo courtesy michigan athletic media relations what this young U-M team, like making it to the Final Four which boasted only one senior, had to overcome throughout can be a little addictive," Rosen said. "We have to be mindful of the season even to attain an opportunity to do so. not getting swept up in the expectations. Sometimes those Riddled by inexperience and injury, a team that had reached expectations can change the process and we don't want to the Sweet 16 in four of the last five years, including an Elite do that. Eight appearance in 2009, struggled until the midway point "We don't want to think we have already arrived, because of a long and arduous season. After falling in seven of its first we haven't. We have made strides, but still have to work hard 11 Big Ten matchups, reaching the NCAA Tournament was far to make sure we continue to progress as a program and we from certain. can't take anything for granted. We worked hard to get here "I don't think people noticed us during the first half of the and need to continue to work hard to take the next step." season because we were constantly shuffling our lineup due That next step will be largely dependent on a culture built to injuries and other issues," Rosen explained. "We were not by a young team that has grown leaps and bounds from the able to put the same team on the floor consistently, and that trials and tribulations of what ultimately developed into the is an underrated factor in success at this level. Once we were most successful season in school history. able to do that in the middle of the season is when things With most of the squad returning, including a Final Four Allstarted to stabilize." Tournament Team honoree in junior outside hitter Lexi Erwin, Michigan thrived down the stretch, capturing seven of its and the arrival of a talented recruiting class, the future looks last nine regular-season contests, including victories over promising for the Wolverines. No. 4 Nebraska, No. 10 Minnesota and No. 14 Ohio State, and "The culture of this team really evolved and was one of our bolted into postseason play with supreme confidence despite strengths," Rosen said. "Our kids love playing this game, and being underestimated by those outside of Cliff Keen Arena. love playing together and for each other. It is one of those Still unranked heading into the NCAA Tournament, the things we have to keep in mind now moving forward." Wolverines knocked off Tennessee, No. 9 Louisville, Michigan — Kevin Minor January 2013    the wolverine  73

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