By Steve Kornacki
DEARBORN, Mich. – The University of Michigan volleyball team started strong, but couldn't mount the momentum necessary to pull out a win Wednesday night (Sept. 8) in its home and conference opener.
Madonna University, a Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference foe receiving votes in the national poll, won in three sets: 25-19, 25-6 and 25-13.
"I thought we came out and played really well early on," said Wolverines coach Eric Stark, "It was clean, we stuck to our game plan. We were playing fast. We were playing hard. And we knew who was in front of us, and knew what to expect.
"I think we settled a little bit, and started to get back on our heels and start to think and question, and get slower because of that. But I thought our start was really, really good."
Setter Regan Rose, a sophomore from Decatur High, had three assists and four digs. Kenzie Mertz, a sophomore from Macomb's Dakota High, came off the bench to provide three assists, five digs, one kill and one blocked shot.
Senior Gina Giacomini (Plymouth Canton High) and sophomore Kielee Tondryk (Pingree Grove, Ill., Hampshire High) both contributed a pair of kills.
"A lot of people did a lot of things really well," said Stark, whose team is 1-3 overall. "We had a first-year setter (Rose) who ran a system with great success early on.
"Kielee Tondryk played right side today. I gave her the responsibility of shutting down Jodie (Kelly), and Jodie's an All-American hitter. And she did a great job of keeping her in control, and not letting Jodie have an unbelievable match.
"Kenzie Mertz, my libero, she had a late start to our season, and had limited practice up to this point, but was phenomenal in what the defense was."
The Wolverines will play four games in two days on Friday and Saturday in a tournament in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. They will play Rocky Mountain and Carroll (Wis.) on the opening day, and then Dordt and William Penn the final day.
"This is a really good week for us to see where we are," said Stark. "Madonna was receiving (national poll) votes, and now we're going to play Dordt, who is No. 5, Rocky Mountain is No. 25, and Carroll is receiving votes. So, these are strong teams that are probably going to be in the national tournament at the end of the year.
"We have aspirations of winning the conference and going to nationals. So, we're preparing ourselves by playing those types of teams. We're seeing what the level is, and what we need to do, and I think they're going to step up to it."