EAST LANSING — Leading 4-1 at the start of the decisive
fifth game at Michigan State last night, the Michigan volleyball
team was poised to take control of the match.

But, as has happened so often in the past few weeks, it
couldn’t hold on.

Tied at eight, the Spartans took their first lead of game five
with a resounding block by freshmen Maggie Griffin and Meghan
Schoen, rattling the Wolverines. Following a Michigan timeout,
Schoen and senior Kim Schram came back with two strong kills to
give Michigan State an 11-8 advantage. Michigan freshman Katie
Bruzdzinski then recorded three of her team’s next six
points, propelling Michigan to a 14-14 tie.

But undisciplined play caught up with the Wolverines, who
allowed the Spartans to score three straight points and win the
game, 17-15.

Michigan (5-6 Big Ten, 15-7 overall) dropped its second straight
match, and fifth out of its last six, losing 3-2.

“In game five, there were critical points where we were
right there,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “But we
didn’t execute because we had little breakdowns —
breakdowns in our system and breakdowns in individual players.
That’s continuing to get us in trouble.”

Sloppy play plagued the Wolverines throughout the match, as
Michigan players were frequently scrambling in response to the
Spartans’ confidence and crisp offensive play. Down 5-7 in
the fourth game, the Wolverines allowed Michigan State to score
five straight points, including decisive kills by Schoen, Schram
and senior Diana Steplyk. After fighting back to notch commanding
wins in games two and three, the Wolverines lost some of their
composure, committing nine attack errors in the 30-19 loss.

Although Michigan’s mistakes contributed to the loss,
Michigan State (3-8, 8-11) played well throughout the match. The
Spartans outhit the Wolverines .271 to .191, and recorded 15 blocks
— four higher than their season average. In the fourth game,
Michigan State’s defense shut Michigan down, holding the
Wolverines to a negative .053 hitting percentage and just seven
kills.

“(Michigan) State came out and played phenomenal,”
Rosen said. “I think you have to give them credit. But at the
same time, we had our chances. We were up 2-1 and we tied it at 14
in the fifth game. We had our shots, but we didn’t take
advantage of them. They did a better job in those
situations.”

Both teams were sharp at the start of the first game, leading to
a back-and-forth pace with 18 ties and eight lead changes. Then
with the score tied at 18, Michigan regained service and had a
chance to pull away. But the Wolverines committed four attack
errors during a 12-5 Spartan run. Michigan State recorded a
season-high .469 hitting percentage in the 30-23 win.

“We have to execute,” Rosen said. “There are
no simple answers — there’s no genie in a bottle that
we can pull out. We have to dig down there in the trenches, and
we’ve got to be a lot stronger in the critical situations. We
have to make sure we stay disciplined in what we’re doing if
we’re going to be successful.”

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