EAST LANSING — Trying to fend off a late-surge from Michigan State in the first set, freshman defensive specialist Brooke Humphrey held the ball in her hands, readying to serve for set point. She then launched an ace, painting the back corner of the court and building a lead in the match that the Michigan volleyball team would not relinquish.
It was that precision-filled performance from hitters throughout the night that propelled the Wolverines (1-2 Big Ten) over rival Michigan State (2-5) in the annual Jam Jenison event.
After taking the first set 25-22, Michigan ran into trouble, as the Spartans surged offensively. Led by the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Sarah Franklin, Michigan State mounted a serious offensive attack — hitting .333 for the set. The Wolverines’ unforced errors, including multiple service errors, emboldened the Spartan attack, and Michigan dropped the second set 25-20.
“We were very stagnant with our offense at that point,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “We are not a finished product and we know there’s a lot of things to work on.”
With a roaring bench making up for the lack of attendance at Jenison, the Spartans looked to take complete command of the rivalry match, building a 17-10 lead in the third set. But a perfect set from freshman setter Scottee Johnson, followed by an emphatic kill from sophomore opposite May Pertofsky, turned the tide.
“I think we’re a super connected team,” Pertofsky said. “We responded really well with just being really smart, staying fired up and not getting into our heads as much.”
The Wolverines built on that momentum with stellar play from redshirt freshman libero Hannah Grant, a transfer from Michigan State. Grant was active in every corner of the floor, totalling 17 digs on the night.
“I thought Hannah was great,” Rosen said. “It’s a tough environment to come in and play against a team you used to be a part of. Our team had her back.”
With Grant leading the way on defense, the Wolverines were able to establish a rhythm, clawing back to steal the third set, 28-26.
“It shows that we’re fighters,” Pertofsky said of the third set comeback. “We make it a big point to just stay calm and breathe and take a second and just know that we have each other’s backs and we trust each other.”
Added Rosen: “That was a huge comeback. That’s pretty rare to have that happen and I’m really proud of our team.”
In the final set of the night, the Wolverines once again turned to Pertofsky for a spark. With yet another key kill assisted by Johnson, followed by a monstrous block off Michigan State’s Cecilee Max-Brown, the Wolverines built a lead and didn’t turn back. They went on to win the fourth set, 25-19, and continue recent dominance in the in-state rivalry series.
“It’s good to get a win,” Rosen said. “We haven’t had that for 14 months. Just getting going to win was huge.”
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