Nov. 22, 2011
By Joanne C. Gerstner
University of Michigan associate head volleyball coach Leisa Rosen admits she didn't know what she was getting into when she made the big move to Columbus, Ohio, to start school at Ohio State in 1988. She was one of the nation's best volleyball players, hailing from the unlikely hotbed of Wasilla, Alaska.
She had heard nothing of this rivalry thing between Michigan and Ohio State, but given that Alaska is on the other end of North America from Ann Arbor and Columbus, that's pretty understandable.
"Once I got to be a student on campus at Ohio State, it was like, whoa, there is a big rivalry with Michigan, I see it now," said Rosen, who was known by her maiden name of Wissler during her Ohio State days. "Obviously, from the volleyball perspective, we just didn't have Michigan as a main rival, but really all the Big Ten schools. But it was fun to see how excited everybody got during the week when Ohio State played Michigan, everybody was so intense and passionate about their school.
"I can't imagine there is a better or stronger rivalry around anywhere."
Rosen now sees the rivalry from Michigan's side, as she is in her 12th season on staff as the associate head volleyball coach. She works alongside her husband, Michigan head volleyball coach Mark Rosen.
Leisa left a big legacy with the Buckeyes in her four years, helping them win the 1989 and 1991 Big Ten titles. She also was part of the Ohio State team that advanced to the 1991 NCAA Tournament semifinals.
Rosen was Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1988, and as a senior, was Ohio State's Athlete of the Year and the Big Ten's volleyball Player of the Year. She was enshrined in the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame a decade ago.
So yes, Rosen definitely gets what it means to be a Buckeye.
But she clearly calls Michigan and Ann Arbor home, saying it is where her heart is.
"I love it here, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, this is the home for our family," said Rosen, who has two sons with Mark.
The Michigan volleyball team will be part of the big Ohio State lineup week, taking on the Buckeyes at Crisler Arena on Friday (Nov. 25) at 7 p.m. The team normally plays at Keen Arena, but Rosen said the team is excited to play in the newly renovated Crisler Arena and before, hopefully, a big crowd.
"I think it's a great way for us to enjoy the enthusiasm and passion of the week," Rosen said. "We have fans that are, no question, so loyal to us and they love to see good volleyball. It's just going to be an added bonus to have that Ohio State-Michigan thing going too. Keen is such an intimate place to play, and we're very protective about our home court there. I think being at Crisler could make everybody even more loud and boisterous for us."
Rosen admits she doesn't have much first-hand experience seeing the storied Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry, as she only was able to attend two football games while she was in Columbus.
That was partially by choice, as she was busy studying, but also a function of being busy with volleyball season, which runs during football season.
"Truthfully, I don't think I missed much, didn't Michigan win a lot during those years?" Rosen asked.
And Rosen is correct. Michigan won every football game during her Ohio State career from 1988-91. Two of the wins were by three points. One was by 10. And in 1991, Michigan smashed Ohio State 31-3 in Ann Arbor.
Rosen understands the passion of Columbus for Ohio State. She understands the passion of Ann Arbor for Michigan.
So which place is better?
"I think the rivalry is mostly good natured, underneath it all, there's a lot of respect for each university," she said. "Academically, Michigan is better. In terms of athletics, both have great departments and traditions. But I've obviously got to go with Michigan."
Even though Rosen's loyalty is clear, she still gets a little grief around the office when she wears red. And for the record, it's not a secret tribute Buckeye Scarlet.
She likes red because it's her favorite color.
"Yeah, it always happens when I wear red -- somebody's going to say something in good nature to me," Rosen said, laughing. "Hey, it's a nice color and I like it. I take the heat in good fun."
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