Sunday, the Michigan volleyball team faced off against its in-state rival for the second time this season. For the last five years, the Michigan-Michigan State volleyball rivalry has been far from even. Michigan hasn’t lost to Michigan State since 2017.
The Wolverines (14-8 overall, 5-7 Big Ten) continued that streak to complete the season sweep of the Spartans (10-13, 1-11), 3-0, in a dominant team performance. Junior outside hitter Allison Jacobs and freshman middle blocker Serena Nyambio both tallied season high kill marks with nine and seven, respectively – a pair who don’t typically lead the team in kills.
“I felt offensively we were very consistent today,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “Both setters ran a very good offense and our first contact was very strong throughout.”
Michigan started the first set strong and continued to dominate with more than double Michigan State’s kills. Jacobs led the team with five kills in the first set alone.
“I’m in the front row with two amazing options,” Jacobs said, referring to junior outside hitter Jess Mruzik and senior middle blocker Jess Robinson. “They hold blockers for me so when I do get set I’m in a perfect position to succeed.”
Jacobs secured the first point of the match off a block, setting the tone of defensive intensity throughout the afternoon.
The crowd began to come alive when redshirt junior libero Hannah Grant made three consecutive digs to give the Wolverines a match point. Following a 4-1 run, Michigan won the first set, 25-17.
“We had a big emphasis to make sure we’re not over running balls,” Jacobs said. “I think our pin blockers did a really good job of making sure we’re running the set and not the player and it resulted in a lot of blocks which was really fun.”
But, the Spartans kept the beginning of the second set close. The score was tied at ten and Michigan State had nearly double the attempts that the Wolverines had. But Michigan quickly turned the tide, going on a 10-3 run led by Nyambio who had two blocks and two kills in that time.
“Serena has been working crazy hard in practice because it’s a new position for her,” Rosen said. “I thought today we really saw her take that next step in her development as a player.”
Senior opposite hitter May Pertofsky scored the Wolverines’ final point in the second set giving them the victory, 25-17, again. Pertofsky continued her recent success in hitting with eight kills on the day.
With a 2-0 lead, Michigan began giving other players some time on the court, but the Spartans fought until the very end. They went on a run to tie the final set at 24 and send it into extras. Michigan State’s outside hitters Aliyah Moore and Selin Aslayan helped lead the team in their run and both recorded eight kills.
But, plagued by a service error and final block from the Michigan blockers, the Spartans lost the third set, securing the Wolverines sweep.
“We’ve been playing good volleyball,” Rosen said. “Tonight we put it all together. Our passing and serving was good which seems very elementary and basic but I felt like we were outstanding in those areas today.”
With a strong defensive performance and new faces contributing in Jacobs and Nyambio the Wolverines completed another sweep over their in-state rival.