By Steve Kornacki
DEARBORN, Mich. – How does a team respond to a challenge?
University of Michigan-Dearborn volleyball coach Eric Stark found out Friday night (Sept. 17) that his squad was definitely up to regaining its stride after temporarily losing it.
The Wolverines had won both tight opening sets, 25-22 and 25-21, but couldn't close out Lourdes in a see-saw third set, losing, 23-25.
That's a point where doubt can take over.
However, UM-Dearborn (4-7, 2-1 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference) came on strong to win the deciding set, 25-17, and its third consecutive match. When junior Regan Sliwinski put the Wolverines up, 21-16, with a strong kill at the net, she was all smiles and her team had regained momentum.
"That play was a breath of fresh air at that point," said Stark. "You start to extend the lead late like that, you start to really feel that win coming.
"We got a little flat-footed, a little stale, had the advantage (in the third set) but then we lost there at the end. And to come back and rebound to get the lead was the difference in that last set."
He said the team bonded during the last season lost to COVID-19, and is very supportive of one another.
"Today truly was a true team win," said Stark. "Everybody on the bench, everybody on the court, you see it – they get excited for each other. And it truly is a team right now.
"It's really been organic. I think (the) COVID (break) actually helped. They got motivated when we weren't able to play in the fall and got a little bit in the spring. And then we come out in the pre-season poll and we're picked last by a landslide. And, so, they have a chip (on their shoulders). They know how good they are. They know what they want to accomplish, and they're really in it together."
Many came through with strong performances against Lourdes (2-6, 0-3 WHAC).
Sophomore Brooke Wetherill (Dunlap, Ill., High) played with plenty of team spirit while contributing 12 kills and two blocked shots, and senior Gina Giacomini (Plymouth Canton) came up big with 11 kills and 13 digs.
Sophomore Kenzie Mertz had 30 digs. Coming up with the assists were sophomore Regan Rose (22) and senior Sabrina Giacomini (15). Sliwinski had a team-high three blocks and added eight kills.
The Wolverines travel Saturday to Siena Heights for a 1 p.m. WHAC match.