By Dan KetchelDaily Sports WriterEAST LANSING – The Michigan volleyball team made the most of its first conference game on Wednesday night at Jenison Field House. The Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 8-3 overall) snatched the victory from under Michigan State’s nose in the tightly contested match. Michigan brought the game to match point only to allow the Spartans to take three straight points, bringing themselves within one. Michigan State served up the final point. A perfect set by Michigan redshirt freshman Mara Martin brought the ball to the hand of junior Erin Cobler. She then met the ball with an assertive strike, playing it barely on the line for a controversial point. The play clinched the fifth game, 15-13, and the match.”Erin Cobler had a great night tonight,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “She’s a veteran on our team. She’s kind of a quiet performer. We call her our stabilizer. She’s not always going to go out and win the games. Match point, she takes a full, aggressive swing against their best player. Tonight, she went out and won it.”The in-state rivals went back and forth all night, each trying to shut the other down; it took all five sets for Michigan to put the Spartans away – 23-30, 30-21, 23-30, 30-28, 15-13. Michigan State started the match strong with a first-game .378 hitting percentage. But the Wolverines bounced back quickly, holding their opponents to -.081 hitting in the second game. Spartans sophomore Katie Johnson – who leads the nation in kills with 6.18 per game – had a match-high 22 kills. Michigan junior Danielle Pflum was the only player to parallel Johnson’s late-game heroics, with each accumulating four game-five kills.”I know when it’s time to step it up,” Pflum said. “The crowd was great, everyone was rooting against us, and, hopefully, I can start playing like that from game one instead of just for game five.”Pflum, who’s affectionately known by her coach as “The Thug,” was swinging proficiently throughout the match, tallying a team-high 15 kills. Her nickname comes from the aggressive way she crashes the net – something she did last night.”(Pflum) is doing a great job,” Rosen said. “She just gets up and bangs, and she likes that role. I think the last couple of nights she’s been thuggish, and we want her that way. She gets up and hits the heck out of it, especially in pressure situations. She’s going to take big swings.”The two Big Ten rivals (0-1, 7-5) exchanged game wins throughout the match, culminating in a do-or-die fifth game where the Wolverines and Spartans hit .286 and .269, respectively. Other Michigan team-highs were Martin’s 46 assists and junior Lyndsay Miller’s four blocks to lead the team to its first conference win of the season. This win, however, seemed no more important than any other for most members of the team.”It’s a big game for us either way,” Pflum said. “State’s always someone who we would like to come out and beat. But it’s a good start for a couple of people that haven’t played a whole lot in the Big Ten to see what it’s all about.”The Wolverines will continue on to Bloomington, where they will meet Indiana (0-0, 6-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday night.

Michigan Volleyball
Junior Danielle Pflum – nicknamed “The Thug” by her teammates – helped push the Wolverines in a win over rival Michigan State last night. (Trevor Campbell/Daily)

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