Carly Skjodt fired an arcing serve that dipped over the net and left several Spartans sprawling on the floor.
After the ace from the junior outside hitter, No. 10 Michigan State’s lead was cut to just 24-21 in the third set. The three unanswered points appeared to be a glimmer of hope that the Michigan volleyball team (3-6 Big Ten, 13-8 overall) could perhaps steal the set — and the match lead.
Or perhaps not.
Spartan outside hitter Brooke Kranda promptly fired a missile to the center of the Wolverine defense, and Michigan State closed out the set.
The Spartans (7-2, 14-4) ripped off a huge 10-3 run toward the end of the fourth set to remove Michigan’s final glimmers of hope and win the match, 25-19, 25-27, 25-21, 25-16.
Michigan State excelled offensively behind an extremely balanced attack on Wednesday night. Five different Spartans had nine or more kills.
“Their setter does a great job, she’s got a lot of options to go to and that’s what makes them so dangerous,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “They control the ball well enough to let their setter run their offense and she’s got lots of weapons to go to.”
Similar to the rest of its season, Michigan failed to rise to the challenge against an elite opponent. Since entering the gauntlet of Big Ten play, the Wolverines are 3-6, losing three of those matches in straight sets. On the season, Michigan is sporting a dismal record of 0-6 against top-25 teams.
“We’re not good enough,” Rosen said. “We’re trying to get better every day and we’re not good enough yet.”
Although they dropped the match in four sets, the Wolverines showed flashes of brilliance.
Skjodt, in particular, was exceptional. She delivered an all-around performance, notching a double-double with a season-high 24 kills and 10 digs. While the majority of her team struggled against the defense of Michigan State’s hulking middle blockers, Skjodt repeatedly gashed the Spartan defense with an array of tip kills and booming spikes.
“(Skjodt’s) got such a great competitive spirit,” Rosen said. “She’s somebody who just battles.”
In the second set, Skjodt’s kills were crucial to a tense Michigan win. The teams jostled for position throughout the set, with eight lead changes and 11 ties. Senior middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright also had a huge set, earning two of Michigan’s last three kills. Both kills came courtesy of her excellent movement. She swung to the right of sophomore setter MacKenzi Welsh and pummeled the ball past the Spartan defense each time.
Above all, however, the Wolverines closed out the second set due to solid team play and excellent passing.
Despite an outstanding performance from Skjodt and a great team performance in the second set, the Wolverines were simply outplayed by the Spartans, who boast a roster full of experience.
“They have six seniors on the floor who’ve been playing together their whole career,” Rosen said. “They’re very smooth.”
The Wolverines will face yet another tough task as they travel to Ohio State on Sunday, and they still have two more ranked teams on their schedule.
According to Rosen, Michigan’s upcoming game plan is simple.
“We’ve got to get better.”