Friday evening, No. 15 Penn State (18-7 overall, 11-4 Big Ten) came out victorious over the Michigan volleyball team (14-10, 7-8). The Nittany Lions beat the Wolverines 3-1 for the second time this season in a competitive contest in which Michigan refused to go down quietly.
Penn State played aggressively and remained in control for almost the entire night. However, a large and energetic crowd came out to support the Wolverines for their Pink Game, feuling the home side’s resolve. Despite being down at least five points at some point in each set, the Wolverines showed impressive spirit. They fought their way back to a level score late in three separate sets.
Penn State seemingly had the first set secured when it took a 22-15 lead, but the Wolverines steeled themselves and proceeded to go on an 8-1 run to tie the set at 23. This caused Penn State to take a timeout. The Nittany Lions managed to pull themselves together during that timeout and took the set, 26-24.
The second set was a similar story, but this time Michigan won out. Aftering falling behind 11-20, the Wolverines went on another impressive run, this time 10-1, to tie the set. Then, after a back and forth, a service ace from junior opposite May Pertofsky put it away for Michigan 25-23, drawing the game even at a set apiece.
The third set was much more balanced throughout. The Wolverines hung with Penn State, even taking an 18-17 lead. But, the Nittany Lions rallied from there to take the set 25-19.
After its third set victory, Penn State capitalized on the momentum and slowly pulled away from Michigan over the fourth set, building a five point 21-16 lead. However, as they had done all night, the Wolverines rallied. Pushing within two points, it seemed they had a chance to finish the comeback. But the Nittany Lions managed to finish them off.
Penn State challenged the final play of the match, leading to an overturned Wolverine block error and the Nittany Lions winning the day.
“I thought we played well, we just weren’t quite steady enough,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “Penn State was a little more consistent in the pass game, a little more consistent attacking wise… that’s part of the game and we’ve got to get better at that, but overall I thought we played well.”
As the season progresses, players like outside hitter Jess Mruzik have grown. A sophomore, she led the Wolverine offense on Friday and as players like her gain more experience, those tight late-set situations will turn more in Michigan’s favor.