Aug. 29, 2009

Courtesy of Michigan

OMAHA, Neb. -- Led by 14 kills from sophomore Alex Hunt (Granger, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph) and 33 assists from junior Lexi Zimmerman (Barrington, Ill./Barrington), the No. 16 ranked University of Michigan volleyball team shocked No. 3 Nebraska in straight sets, 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-17), in its season opener at the Runza/AVCA Showcase on Friday (Aug. 28) at the Qwest Center. The victory marks the first win by the Michigan program over a top-five ranked team and the first time in five matches the Wolverines defeated Nebraska.

Hunt led the way with a match-best 14-kill performance and was the lone player on either side to reach double figures. Seniors Juliana Paz (Porto Alegre, Brazil/Iowa Western CC) and Veronica Rood (Temperance, Mich./Bedford) chipped in seven and six kills, respectively. Zimmerman posted 33 helpers and eight digs, while senior Megan Bower (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) led the Wolverines with nine digs.

After taking a 2-0 lead into the intermission, the Wolverines saved their best effort for set three, connecting at a .478 clip in the third frame en route to a 25-17 victory. U-M built an 8-6 lead at the first media timeout thanks in large part to Nebraska miscues and kills from Paz and sophomore Courtney Fletcher (Duluth, Ga./Northview). Back-to-back terminations from Paz and Rood pushed the lead to 14-8 and two more Husker errors gave the Maize and Blue a 16-9 lead, its largest of the set. From there, Zimmerman got offensive, producing three kills down the stretch as a Nebraska attack error ended the night, 25-17.

In set one, the Wolverines found themselves down early, 4-1, and battling a raucous Nebraska crowd of nearly 6,000 that filled the Qwest Center. Down 8-6, Hunt heated up, reeling off two straight kills, cutting the lead to 9-8. Rood tied the match minutes later at 11-all before Bower gave U-M its first lead of the night, 12-11. The two teams battled back and forth from there with neither side grabbing more than a three-point advantage all the way to the winning kill from Hunt, a mammoth blast to the back-left corner that gave the Wolverines a 25-23 victory.

In set two, the Wolverines jumped on top early and got timely offensive spurts from Rood and Hunt to build a 13-9 advantage. Up 16-12, U-M watched as Nebraska took momentum with a 4-0 run, tying the score at 16-16. Both squads traded points down the stretch until Michigan reeled off five of the final six set points, capped by a service ace from Hunt for a 25-21 win.

Michigan returns to the court on Saturday (Aug. 29) when it faces No. 22 Kansas State at 6 pm CDT. The match can be seen live on CBS College Sports and followed on a live blog on MGoBlue.com.

N O T E S

• The win marks the fourth consecutive season-opening victory for Michigan. The Wolverines have started the past three seasons 13-0.

• The set-one victory over Nebraska marks the first set victory over the Huskers in five matches all-time by U-M. Nebraska had swept the Wolverines 3-0 in the previous four meetings.

• Tonight's win is the 399th career victory for U-M head coach Mark Rosen.

Q U O T E S

Michigan Head Coach Mark Rosen
Opening statement... "We're very pleased that our team played well. I was pleased with our resilience. Obviously it's hard when you're in somebody else's gym and you get their crowd. There were times in games two and three when the momentum shifted at times and we were able to be resilient. I think we served the ball really well and that's something we kind of feel is important for our game. I thought we defended well and showed a lot of composure. We're very pleased. I think Nebraska has a great team. They're young and they're going to be very good. It was a fun situation for us tonight."

On Michigan's experience being a factor in the win... "In the first game you never know what you're going to get. We have a lot of returning players, which certainly helps, so we have a lot of experience on the floor. We went on a foreign trip in the spring, which helped us be advanced right now because we had that extra time. That's certainly the purpose of that trip is to add that. I thought tonight throughout the match I saw situations where we're benefiting from the fact that we had that opportunity and that experience -- as far as the cohesiveness of this team and the trust within our team and the tempo with what we're doing this early in the year really helped a lot. I think that was certainly a benefit."

Michigan senior captain Megan Bower
On what this means for the program... "It is huge. This is the biggest win in our history. I am so proud of the team and of what we accomplished. To come in here and win this match is a huge accomplishment, but we can't rest on it. This is a great jumping off point, but we have to build on it."

Michigan sophomore Alex Hunt
On her 14-kill performance... "It was a lot of fun out there tonight. I got to a point where I could feel myself getting in a rhythm and Lexi did a great got of directing the offense and getting the ball where it needed to be. They are a great blocking team and I thought we did a great job of attacking them."

On the biggest difference between this year's match and last year's... "I think last year we felt a little pressure. This year it was the season opener, our season wasn't at stake. We felt like we could come out and compete with Nebraska. The experience we gained last season in the loss to them helped us grow and I think that was a big key. We also passed the ball much better and were just more relaxed out there."