The Dayton Flyers volleyball team started the season 0-3. Its record stood at 2-4 after a 3-1 loss Friday to Missouri in its second match of the Dayton Invitational at the Frericks Center.
Not much about the way the Flyers had played, especially in Friday’s match, foreshadowed the biggest victory of the season, but that’s what they got Saturday night when they upset No. 14 Michigan in five sets.
“I think maybe it made us whole again,” coach Tim Horsmon said Monday.
Horsmon said his team didn’t compete at a high level in the 22-25, 25-17, 16-25, 10-25 loss to Missouri, a team receiving votes in the top 25 poll, and that disappointed the coaching staff and the players. Everyone had a lot of reflecting to do, and the coaches and some players stayed in the offices until late Friday, around 11 p.m., preparing for Saturday night’s match.
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The preparation continued Saturday morning. Horsmon credited senior Brooke Westbeld and junior Bridget Doherty, in particular, for providing the leadership that got the team back on track.
“We spent a lot of that night trying to come up with a plan on how we could be better the next day and be accountable, and I thought they did an awesome job,” Horsmon said. “They wanted to take charge moving forward. They spent a lot more time than normal watching Michigan, coming up with a scouting report. They took over our practice that morning. They wanted to make that about their passion.”
Dayton had never beaten Michigan in three tries in 1985, 2009 and 2011. This time, the Flyers won 28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 15-12, ending a streak of 11 straight losses to non-conference ranked opponents. This was the highest-ranked opponent Dayton has beaten since it topped No. 7 Illinois 3-0 and No. 11 Pepperdine 3-1 in the first two matches of the 2012 season.
Dayton got a big boost from the home fans. The crowd of 2,641 set a Frericks Center attendance record. The previous record of 2,285 was set against Ohio State in September 2018.
“This is my 11th year total here, and I think that was one of the best environments I can ever remember, including us hosting that Michigan State match back in the day,” Horsmon said. “Just an awesome environment. To have our fans and the Red Scare there and the band and so many athletic teams there that were representing our Flyer Faithful, it was a really neat environment.”
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Dayton redshirt sophomore Jamie Peterson and sophomore Maura Collins made the all-tournament team. Peterson had 27 kills against Michigan. Westbeld had 28 assists. Sophomore Alli Papesh had 18 kills.
What did Dayton do differently on the court against Michigan compared to the Missouri match? Horsmon said it came down to competing better.
“When things got tough against Missouri, we just let go, and it was really easy for us to give up runs and points, which you can’t do in volleyball,” he said. “When you start making errors in bunches, one or two runs of points against a good team can put you away. We just didn’t fight in those moments. Against Michigan, I never felt it got too far away from us. Even in the sets we lost, we were still in it. We didn’t give up too much in those moments.”
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