Having sat on the periphery of the national rankings all season, Michigan State came into Wednesday night’s matchup against Michigan with a point to prove.

After the Spartans’ victory over Michigan (1-2 Big Ten, 11-3 overall), they left Jenison Field House in East Lansing with little doubt they should be nationally ranked.

Led by outside hitters Alyssa Garvelink and Brooke Kranda, Michigan State (2-1, 10-4) proved adept at controlling play around the net and began to flex its muscles in the second set. The duo combined to record 18 kills in the match.

“We knew (Michigan State) is a good team, and there were no surprises going into this game,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “We knew what they were going to do, but their execution was better in the latter stages of each set.”

Both teams came out strong in the first set, as both eyed their second Big Ten win of the season. The Wolverines, playing in a hostile atmosphere, silenced the crowd early behind some dominant play by sophomore outside hitter Adeja Lambert, who recorded 10 kills in the match. With a 16-14 lead in the set, the Wolverines looked poised to hang on and take the set. But two Michigan State aces and a barrage of difficult serves allowed the Spartans to build momentum and then eventually take a 1-0 lead in the match.

As the second set progressed, Michigan State continued to pull away from Michigan, as the Spartans forced the Wolverines into numerous mistakes. Michigan, despite some strong play toward the end of the set, couldn’t muster enough offensive chances to threaten the Spartans.

“We did a good job early on, and we were consistent in our execution,” Rosen said. “As the sets went on, our passing deteriorated, (Michigan State) kept improving, and we realized that we need to work better together.”

In the third set, Michigan came out strong, looking to stay alive. Lambert notched another kill while senior middle blocker Krystalyn Goode racked up three of her own, helping the Wolverines to a quick 12-7 lead. But just as quickly as it took back the first set, Michigan State regained the form that saw it dominate the second set. The Spartans’ diverse array of offensive options put the Michigan defense on its heels. Quickly erasing the deficit, Michigan State roared back, eventually tying up the set at 17. Over the next several minutes, back-and-forth play dominated the game. With the scoreboard reading 21-21, Michigan State put its foot on the throttle, closing out Michigan and winning the next four points to clinch the victory.

With a rematch scheduled for Saturday in Ann Arbor, Rosen knows his team needs to improve.

“We need to compete better,” Rosen said. ”When we are leading late in the game we need to be more consistent in all aspects of the game, offensively and defensively.”

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