Dec. 22, 2016
The University of Michigan volleyball program ended an impressive 2016 season with its sixth NCAA Tournament regional semifinal appearance and the highest NCAA Tournament seed in program history. Led by 18th-year coach Mark Rosen and senior captains Abby Cole, Ally Davis and Kelly Murphy, the squad finished its season with a 24-11 record and its first trip to the NCAA regional semifinals since 2012.
The Maize and Blue jumped into Big Ten Conference action with an 11-1 record in hand and a No. 22 AVCA ranking. With just one loss in non-conference play -- which came to NCAA second-round participant Pittsburgh, the 11-1 mark signaled the eighth time in Michigan's 44-year history that the Wolverines began their season with an 11-1 record or better.
Playing in arguably the toughest volleyball conference in the country, the Wolverines finished the 2016 season with multiple victories over top-ranked competition, including Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Oregon. All four of Michigan's victories over top-25 opponents came at the Wolverines' home court in Ann Arbor, with the victory over Oregon occurring during the NCAA Second Round.
In addition to its four top-25 victories at home, Michigan capped off the year with a near perfect 16-2 record when playing on its home court, with both losses coming to teams ranked No. 1 at the time. Other than a 3-0 loss to Nebraska (Sep. 23) and a five-set heartbreaker to Wisconsin (Oct. 15), the Maize and Blue refused to lose when playing inside Cliff Keen Arena and Crisler Center. Holding opponents to just a .196 attack average, seven sellout crowds fueled Michigan's 16 home wins, including two during the NCAA Tournament first and second rounds.
With a 22-10 record through the regular season, Michigan was selected as the No. 12 seed for the NCAA Tournament, hosting the first and second rounds for the first time since 2009. The seed was the highest in program history, marking the first time since 2009 that the Wolverines have been selected to host an NCAA tournament match.
One of the top storylines of the 2016 season was Michigan's offensive dominance, as the Wolverines finished the year with their 23rd winning season in program history. Dropping just 11 matches on the year -- eight of which were against top-25 opponents, the Maize and Blue ended an impressive season with a program-high .258 team attack average -- breaking the previous team record of .251 set in 2004 when Michigan advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals. Michigan also nearly broke a record with a 3-0 sweep of American in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, earning a program second-best .406 attack average for a postseason match.
Senior Abby Cole wrapped up a record-breaking career with numerous postseason honors. The middle blocker and team co-captain led her team in multiple statistical categories during the 2016 campaign, finishing a dominant final season ranking second all-time in Michigan's record books with a .317 career attack percentage. She also finished fifth in program history in career kills with 1,452, capping off the 2016 season with an AVCA All-America second team selection along with a unanimous All-Big Ten Conference first-team honor.
In her debut season with the Maize and Blue, freshman setter MacKenzi Welsh made an immediate impact on the court, garnering numerous postseason and weekly awards. Averaging 10.61 assists per set and guiding the Maize and Blue to a .258 team kill percentage to rank fifth in the prestigious Big Ten Conference, Welsh was the only freshman to start every match for the Wolverines this season. She wrapped up her freshman year with 12 assist-dig double-doubles and totaled 1,390 assists, which ranked sixth in the country for the season. Welsh ended her debut season with four Big Ten weekly awards, two All-Big Ten postseason honors, and AVCA All-North Region and All-America honorable mentions.
Sharing the middle blocker duties with Cole, junior Claire Kieffer-Wright was a force at the net for Michigan this season, boasting a team-high 129 total blocks and leading Michigan in blocks 20 times. She also led the Wolverines in kills seven times, recording double-digit kills in 17 contests -- including 11-straight to end the season. Kieffer-Wright's .297 attack average for the season ranks in the top-15 at Michigan all-time, while her totals blocks for the season ranks in the top six.
Following a breakout freshman season, sophomore libero Jenna Lerg anchored the back row for Michigan in 2016, finishing the season with 560 digs, which ranks third all-time at U-M for digs in a single season. Earning two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Awards, Lerg ended the year with 30 double-digit dig performances, including a season-high 39 digs against Pittsburgh during non-conference play.
Senior captains Ally Davis and Kelly Murphy were leaders for Michigan both on and off the court in their fifth season with the Wolverines. Both players earned Academic All-Big Ten selections, and Murphy was selected as Michigan's winner of the Big Ten Sportsmanship award for the 2016 season.
Honors and Awards
NCAA Regional Semifinals, Austin Regional
All-Tournament Team: Abby Cole
Big Ten Player of the Week
Co-Defensive: Jenna Lerg (Sept. 12)
Freshman: MacKenzi Welsh (Oct. 10)
Freshman: MacKenzi Welsh (Oct. 17)
Freshman: MacKenzi Welsh (Oct. 24)
Co-Freshman: MacKenzi Welsh (Nov. 14)
Defensive: Jenna Lerg (Nov. 29)
Academic All-Big Ten
Maddy Abbott, So., LSA undeclared, Newport Coast, Calif.
Ally Davis, Gr., management, Hinsdale, Ill.
Jenna Lerg, So., biopsychology/cognitive & neuroscience, Farmington Hills, Mich.
Kelly Murphy, Gr., management, Marietta, Ga.
Carly Skjodt, So., LSA undeclared, Indianapolis, Ind.
All-Tournament Team Selections
Abby Cole: Michigan Invitational MVP, K-State Invitational MVP, Michigan/EMU Challenge MVP
Claire Kieffer-Wright: Michigan Invitational, Michigan/EMU Challenge
Adeja Lambert: Michigan/EMU Challenge
Jenna Lerg: K-State Invitational, Panther Invitational, Michigan/EMU Challenge
Kelly Murphy: K-State Invitational
Carly Skjodt: Michigan Invitational
MacKenzi Welsh: Panther Invitational
Communications Contact: Katie Gwinn Hewitt