Michigan squeaks past Tennessee to second round of NCAA tournament
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Michigan went down to the wire with Tennessee in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, but pulled out a five-set win (25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 19-25, 15-10). Juniors Lexi Erwin and Molly Toon produced 26 and 20 kills, respectively, as Michigan moves into the second round of the national tournament for the fifth time in six seasons.
Erwin and Toon were joined in double figures in kills by junior Jennifer Cross with 10 kills. Sophomore Lexi Dannemiller had 57 assists and made it a double-double with 16 digs. Michigan had five players in double figures in digs, led by freshman Tiffany Morales' 19. Cross had six blocks with freshman Krystalyn Goode adding five.
Tennessee was led by Kelsey Robinson's 15 kills and 24 digs. DeeDee Harrison added 12 kills and 12 total blocks. Ellen Mullins had 22 digs, while Mary Pollmiller added 39 assists.
Tennessee scored the first point of the fifth set, but Michigan answered with three in a row, two coming from Toon kills. Harrison's kill tied the set at three, but another 3-0 Michigan run was capped by back-to-back Dannemiller service aces. Tennessee got as close at 12-10 on back-to-back blocks, but Dannemiller had two kills in a row and Toon ended it with another kill, giving Michigan its fifth five-set win of the season.
Michigan used five kills from Toon and 4.5 blocks to take the first set 25-22 against Tennessee. The Volunteers scored the first three points of the match, but the Maize and Blue came back to tie it at four on a Harrison block error. Michigan took a 6-4 lead on a Dannemiller service ace and built an 8-6 lead off an Erwin kill. Toon's kill gave the Wolverines a 13-8 lead, forcing UT to call a timeout.
Tennessee cut the lead to 18-13 on a Cikra kill, but Michigan came back with a kill from Cross to build a six-point advantage. Tennessee trimmed the Wolverine lead to 19-16 on a Michigan attack error. Michigan battled back with three consecutive points, highlighted by an Erwin kill and Cross block. The Maize and Blue closed out the set on a kill from Cross, giving Michigan the first set of the match.
Michigan jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the second set and did not look back in a 25-17 victory. An assisted block from Cross and Erwin gave Michigan a 4-2 lead. A Tiffany Baker attack error made it 6-3 and a kill from Dannemiller gave the Wolverines an 8-3 lead. Dannemiller joined Cross on a block, giving Michigan the 10-3 advantage. Michigan led 13-5 on Toon's kill but Tennessee came back to cut the lead to 14-9 on back-to-back kills from Cikra.
That was as close as the Volunteers got in the set. Michigan led 18-11 on an Erwin kill and took a 21-14 lead on Claire McElheny's termination. Erwin scored Michigan's last three points on a solo block and two kills, taking the 2-0 lead into the locker room.
Tennessee used six kills from Kelsey Robinson and four Michigan service errors to take the third set 25-22. Harrison and Kayla Jeter combined for a block to give UT a 3-2 lead. An Erwin kill tied the set at five and a Tennessee error knotted the score at eight, but the Volunteers scored the next three points, capped by a Wolverine attack error. A Tiffany Baker kill gave Tennessee a 13-10 lead and Harrison and Robinson combined on a block for a 16-11 advantage. Michigan cut the lead to 18-16 on a Robinson attack error, but Tennessee answered, taking a 23-19 lead on a block by Jeter and Harrison. The Vols won the set on a Robinson kill.
The Volunteers hit .300 in the fourth set and used an early 7-0 run to win 25-19. Cross' kill gave Michigan a 4-3 lead, but a Robinson kill and back-to-back Tennessee blocks started the run. Two Cikra kills and two Michigan errors gave the Vols a 10-4 lead. The Wolverines trimmed the lead to 12-9 on an Erwin kill, but Harrison's kill gave Tennessee a 15-10 advantage. Robinson's termination made it 18-12 UT and a Cirka kill pushed the lead to 20-15. Jeter had Tennessee's final two kills of the set as the Vols pushed the match to the limit.