Championship teams across all spectrum of sport are generally prefaced by a simple phrase.
No. 1 Penn State, No. 3 Texas, No. 5 Oregon, and Michigan is just …Michigan, unseeded Michigan. Finishing at 27-11, with an 11-9 in-conference record, the Wolverines are by far the most unlikely of squads to have reached the Final Four.
Despite the less-than-ideal regular season record, the Wolverines played the Nittany Lions tough back in a mid-October match, which saw the Lions sneak out a 3-2 victory.
A sea of media saw the eyes of Micha Hancock, newly crowned Big Ten Setter of the Year, light up when asked what made the Wolverines such a solid team.
“They put their heart on the floor,” Hancock said.
Hancock talked about the Wolverines’ match against No. 2 Stanford this past weekend, in which the Wolverines upset the heavily favored Cardinal.
“Watching the Stanford game, they played their best game,” Hancock said. “Their defense was off the wall. They run a fast offense, as well, so when they get the ball in transition, they were just putting it down and Stanford was having a hard time defending it.”
Hancock was not the only Lion who felt the Wolverines are a team that far exceeds its expectations.
Penn State coach Russ Rose chalked the Wolverines’ lack of being seeded within the top-16 as a reflection of college volleyball as a whole, implying the Wolverines deserved a seeded spot.
“You can only rank so many teams in the country,” Rose said. “And those of us that are in the conference know how good everybody in the conference is.”
Of the four teams still standing, the Big Ten claims two (Penn State, Michigan), while the Pac-12 (Oregon) and Big 12 (Texas) are each represented by one university.
“Everybody in the [Big Ten] conference does different things well,” Rose said. “Michigan plays really hard.”
Michigan plays tonight against No. 3 Texas, and with a win, would face the winner of Penn State vs. Oregon.