Coming out of the intermission on Wednesday night, the Michigan volleyball team (3-2 Big Ten, 6-5 overall) found itself backed against a wall as it faced a Michigan State squad (2-3, 9-3) up two games to none in the first match of the State Pride Series.
Failing to execute with any semblance of consistency or focus in the first game, the Wolverines were destroyed by the Spartans 30-19. Michigan was unable to pass the ball effectively and was dominated by the taller Michigan State team.
“The first game we didn”t play very good defense and our passing was horrendous,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said.
The second game of Wednesday”s match was completely different from the first. Michigan committed half as many errors as it had in the first game and served harder. This allowed the Wolverines to rattle the Spartans, since harder serves made the initial passes by Michigan State more difficult.
“We served tougher, got them off balance,” Rosen said about the second game.
But the Wolverines were not alone in their adjustments. The Spartans also improved dramatically over their play in game one. Michigan come out in the second game and hit an astonishing .464 attack percentage, but Michigan State was able to counter with three players having attack percentages over .500.
“I thought we played game two really well, until the last five or six points,” Rosen said.
After leading 25-23, Michigan lost the second game 30-28. The Wolverines went into the intermission having shown a lot of effort and good play, but didn”t have a win to show for it.
Their high level of play was the Wolverines” only hope as they came back onto the court after intermission, looking to get back into the match against their intrastate rival. The stage was set for the greatest comeback of this young team”s season.
Down two games to one, Michigan would power back and win the next three games to steal the victory from visiting Michigan State.
In game three the Wolverines looked to their star Erin Moore to lead them in their comeback, and she responded with four key kills. Outside hitter Chantel Reedus and right side Nicole Poquette combined for seven kills in game three, including Reedus” game-winning kill.
Michigan was now down two games to one and still faced a must-win situation in game four. This time it was freshman Jennifer Gandolph who led the Wolverines.
Gandolph, who recorded her fourth consecutive double-double last night, slammed home seven kills in the fourth game against the Spartans.
But, Gandolph was not the only cause for Michigan State”s 30-23 loss. The game three loss rattled the previously-composed Michigan State squad as the players began to question the officials” calls and lose their cool.
The momentum was now with the Wolverines. Believing that they had the match won, the Spartans had grown lax against a dangerous Michigan team and were unprepared for the fifth game.
Those fans that stayed for the fifth game witnessed domination by a team determined to let nothing stand in its way. The Wolverines handed the Spartans a devastating 15-9 loss to cap off an amazing comeback.
Moore was once again at the forefront of the Michigan attack. Her four kills in game five and her .800 attack percentage led all scorers for the game. But it was Gandolph”s 13th and final kill of the night that caused the Michigan bench to explode in cheers and the fans of Cliff Keen Arena to jump to their feet.