EAST LANSING State pride was at stake when the Michigan volleyball team (6-5 Big Ten, 10-8 overall) traveled to face its intrastate rival Michigan State (5-6, 12-6) .
In the first meeting of the season, it took five games and an incredible come from behind effort for Michigan to win, but in East Lansing it only took four, and the Wolverines won just a single game.
The Wolverines got off to a horrendous start as the Spartans grabbed a 11-2 lead without breaking a sweat. Michigan repeatedly found its attacks blocked by the Spartans, who recorded six kills in game one alone.
But the Wolverines got over their early game jitters to bring the game back to 15-10 on Erin Moore”s first kill of the night.
Michigan State again resumed its dominance and surged out to win the first game, 30-18. It was a game in which the Wolverines recorded only nine kills and committed 10 errors.
“We just fell apart in the first game,” junior Katrina Lehman said. “I don”t even think we played to our level.”
In game two, the Spartans could not muster the same early superiority they had achieved in the first game. Nevertheless, the Wolverines committed errors early on, which set them behind 10-7. Then, Michigan State regained its authority and established a 23-13 lead. With a double-digit advantage, the Spartans did not need dominance to win. Michigan did little to help its cause as it committed three consecutive attack errors to lose the game 30-15.
This was the third lowest scoring output by the Wolverines this season the other two came against Hawaii and Wisconsin. Against the Spartans, Michigan was continually unable to execute in its system.
“I didn”t think we represented what we were about as a team, in the first two games very well,” coach Mark Rosen said.
The Wolverines came out of intermission down two games to none to the Spartans, facing the same dire situation they had in the first matchup of the State Pride Series. But the Wolverines did not have the same good showing they had had in the first match and had almost no momentum to build on.
Michigan has proven so many times this season that it does not need momentum to win, just hunger. The Spartan”s dominance disappeared during the intermission as the Wolverines grabbed a 12-7 lead, their largest advantage to that point.
Michigan stepped up its offense and posted its only positive attack percentage of the match with an amazing .471 percentage, which led to its only win of the night 30-19. A big part of the Wolverines” offensive output was generated by Moore. She tallied six kills in the third game alone and led Michigan offensively with 15 kills in the match.
“I just wanted the ball,” Moore said. “And finally in the third game, it happened.”
Could Michigan”s miracle comeback victory at Cliff Keen Arena on Oct. 3 be repeated on the road? The Wolverines fought hard to force a deciding game five, as they overcame an early Michigan State run to tie game four at 13.
But the Spartans proved too dominant and seized a 25-20 lead. This would ultimately prove too much for the Wolverines, as the Spartans powered past Michigan 30-22.
“They beat us flat-out, they outplayed us, they outworked us,” Moore said.