I know football starts tomorrow, but Volleyball starts today dammit. As the only Michigan team to probably be in Houston this year, you best believe I'm going to go see my favorite women's sport and write about it. Plus the team is actually pretty good. And attractive women in spandex are much more attractive than attractive women not in spandex. It's a fact.
Volleyball started off the season right today with a sweep (3-0) versus Louisiana Lafayette and the Rajun Cajuns at Fox Gymnasium on Rice University's campus. Unfortuantely for yours truly, Rice's athletic facilities are currently under a large amount of construction and Rice, despite all their brilliance, can't post signs directing people to the playing site. The site itself was a dump of a practice facility. The tournament is held at the basketball arena which won't be open until basketball season. I ended up missing the first game and the first handful of points in game 2. Without knowing it, I sat behind the Rice coach who gave me a good run down of the portion I missed. To quote her, "It was 25-10," with the scrunched up type of face that just says, "It was ugly."
Fast forward to a 9-5 lead by Michigan in game 2. When I arrived the 1st Michigan front was already on the court. The primary attack group features outside hitter junior #18 Juliana Paz, senior middleblocker #2 Beth Karpiak, and junior rightside hitter #5 Megan Bower. The Rajun Cajuns appeared to have a gameplan set up to shut down Bower. This opened the door for Karpiak. While rather spotty on nailing her one-sets (a quick set to the middleblocker) during game two, any two-set (more traditional set to the middleblocker) was blasted to the floor. Paz was the main force in keeping the game close throughout the middle of the second game. UL-Lafayette had no chance to block most of her shots as she mixed both the line and cross shots with high velocity and great accuracy. Michigan took this game 25-22, but never trailed after my arrival.
In set three, it was all Michigan, all the time. Karpiak appeared to have much better communication with sophomore setter Lexi Zimmerman. UL-Lafayette appeared well overmatched and fell soundly 25-17.
A couple things were exposed in the first match of the season:
There is a great difference between Michigan's top front row and its secondary front row. Paz, Karpiak, and Bower are leaps and bounds better than Rood (Jr Outside), Bruck (RS Fr. MB/Right side). Rood was couldn't land any kills in the third game and was replaced by freshman outside hitter Alex Hunt. She did not impress much either, but had limited action on the court.
The second thing easily noticeable in this game was Michigan's lack of height. Michigan's top three top out at six foot one. This may hurt when it comes to the Big10 season against the behemouths at #1 Penn State who measure no LESS THAN six foot three, much less #13 Wisconsin or #16 Minnesota. Blocking against UL-Lafayette was less than spectacular due to the lack of height. There were several balls that were missed and many others blocked out of bounds. Michigan defintely had room to improve there.
Another area to keep an eye on this season is the defensive specialist. Currently, true freshman #3 Sloane Donhoff appears to be the frontrunner for the position. Last years specialist Senior Kerry Hance has taken over full time Libero duties and has looked solid in the role.
Grades for the Game (UL-Lafayette is a very mediocre opponent):
- Lexi Zimmerman - A... played very well
- Juliana Paz - A... solid back and front row play
- Megan Bowers - A-... couple miscues here, but overall successful
- Beth Karpiak - B+... 2nd game was spotty. I heard the first game might have been very good, but construction kept me from seeing it
- Kerry Hance - A... hardly missed a dig
- Sloane Donhoff - A... when you don't write any notes on a DS, that means they did well
- Alex Hunt - B... possibly because I'm comparing her to Bowers/Paz, but no luck blocking or hitting
- Karlee Bruck - A-... blocked very well in her limited time. at 6'3" she is going to need to step it up before conference play
Team Score: A-... the 2nd game was an unnecessary struggle against a mediocre/weak team.
The Wolverines next take on University of Texas-San Antonio on Saturday at 11a.m. CDT. I don't think there is any live coverage of the game as CSTV has decided to cut back in everything this school year. I wouldn't expect to hear a radio broadcast either as the coming of Rich Rodriguez and the new football season will be the main media focus. I'll be at home for the UTSA game, but should be making another trip up to Rice for the night cap which features Michigan taking on the host Rice University.
I'm also thinking about doing a short post on which players are worth google image stalking. My current top picks are #2 Beth Karpiak and #1 Veronica Rood. There is also one of the girls who had a sling on her arm that looked rather good looking, but I couldn't identify her because she had a jacket over her number.
My pictures (yes, they suck): hthttp://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2444386&l=52b47&id=2207293
For mgoblue recap (as they care about minor notes that pertain to volleyball and stats and stuff): http://mgoblue.com/volleyball/article.aspx?id=144230
For the stats: http://mgoblue.com/volleyball/article.aspx?id=144234