In an interview with CSTV.com before the season, Michigan State junior Katie Johnson was asked what match she was most excited to play.
“Michigan, of course,” Johnson said. “Michigan at Michigan. I don’t even care about the one at home because I know we’re going to beat them.”
If Johnson is right about the teams’ second duel, the Spartans are on the way to winning their first State Pride Series since 2001 because Michigan State marched into Cliff Keen Arena last night and swept Michigan (30-27, 30-28, 30-26).
“Like Rasheed Wallace said, ‘You have to have confidence in your team. If you don’t, then you as might well walk off the court,’ ” Johnson said. “And I have all the confidence in my team and we came out tonight and did it.”
But this match may not have been as meaningful for Michigan.
“I think this is going to sound bad . but that’s a typical State mentality where it means more to beat Michigan, not (just) in volleyball, in everything,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “So that’s fine. That’s their thing. For us, it’s a match.”
Trailing two games to nil, the Wolverines came out in game three and built a 19-13 lead, rejuvenating the quieted crowd in the process. But with the Wolverines holding a 20-15 lead, Spartan junior Ashley Schatzle stepped up to serve. By the time she was done, she had forced Michigan to burn both of its timeouts and led Michigan State to a 23-21 lead. Michigan never got back into the game, and the Spartans took the match.
“I don’t think we took care of the ball,” Rosen said. “I don’t think they did anything really in that run other than let us get out of system and that’s what I was frustrated with. That run was more on us than it was on them. There were certain things they did tonight where you’ve got to give them a hand and say ‘Hey, that was a great job.’ What (Schatzle) did attacking-wise, you have to give her credit for that. But that run was more on us not taking care of the ball.”
Schatzle was phenomenal last night putting on what Rosen described as the best individual performance his team has had to deal with all season. She hammered out 24 kills (.476 hitting percentage) and added six digs for good measure.
The Spartans jumped out to a 2-0 lead to start the match and held the advantage the rest of game one. After they upped their lead to a game-high six (27-21), the Wolverines outscored them 6-3 the rest of the way, but still dropped the game 30-27.
Michigan carried its momentum into game two. After trading the first four points, the Wolverines remained in control until Michigan State knotted the game back up at 21.
From then on, the game was back-and-forth, but Schatzle was too much for the Wolverines. Rosen even pulled seldom-used Sarah Draves off the bench to play middle blocker than attempt to slow Schatzle, but it wasn’t enough.
Michigan was thin at middle blocker because senior Megan Bowman was out with a lower-body injury that she suffered in practice during the week. Junior Lyndsay Miller moved from outside hitter to the middle, but since she has not played that position in nearly a year, the team took a hit in the blocking department.
Freshman Veronica Rood took Miller’s place on the outside. She was second on the team with 13 kills, but only sported a .161 hitting percentage. She started the match strong but cooled off. Rosen said that was not due to a Spartan adjustment, but actually her inexperience.
Because of weekday match, the Wolverines will only be in action once this weekend. They will host Iowa Friday. Bowman is questionable for the match.