Dec. 5, 2009

Courtesy of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The No. 16-ranked University of Michigan volleyball team used all 14 healthy bodies and 14 kills from sophomore Alex Hunt (Granger, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph) in a convincing three-set sweep of Niagara (25-4, 25-12, 25-15) Friday (Dec. 4) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Cliff Keen Arena.

Hunt was the lone Wolverine to reach double-figure kills as the Michigan offense spread the attack around with nine players tallying terminations. Junior setter Lexi Zimmerman (Barrington, Ill./Barrington) dished out 24 assists, while freshman setter Catherine Yager (St. Michael, Minn./Albertville) added a career-high 10 helpers. Sophomore libero Sloane Donhoff (Louisville, Ky./Assumption) paced the U-M defense with 17 digs as the Wolverines held Niagara to a -.081 attack percentage for the match.

In the deciding third set, Michigan used back-to-back kills from redshirt freshman Claire McElheny (Westfield, Ind./Brebeuf Prep) to spark a 10-2 run, pushing its lead from 11-7 to 21-9 en route to an easy 25-15 victory. The Wolverines had it going from the service line in set three with senior Juliana Paz (Porto Alegre, Brazil/Iowa Western CC), Donhoff and McElheny each tallying aces down the stretch.

Michigan came out swinging to start the match, using a 25-3 run after Niagara scored the opening point of the night to cruise to a 25-4 win. Seniors Megan Bower (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) and Cassie Petoskey (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer) added the three final kills for a U-M offense that hit at a torrid .625 clip while committing zero errors. Scoring was spread evenly as four Wolverines had three kills apiece.

The second set looked the same as the first, as Michigan ran away with the frame 25-12. Niagara kept it close early at 5-5, but the Michigan offense took over from there. A kill by Hunt followed by a Zimmerman termination broke the tie with U-M never relinquishing the lead from that point. Hunt went on to lead the Wolverines with six kills in the set, while Yager came in to dish out six assists.

The Wolverines return to action on Saturday night (Dec. 5) to face Ohio University at 7:30 p.m. at Cliff Keen Arena in second-round NCAA action. Ohio advanced to the second round after defeating Notre Dame in five sets Friday night. The winner of Saturday's second round contest advances to the NCAA Sweet 16 in Palo Alto, Calif., hosted by Stanford University. will carry live audio and live statistics of Saturday's match.