With state pride on the line, the sold-out crowd at Cliff Keen Arena witnessed a thriller Saturday night.
Coming off a 3-0 loss to Michigan State in East Lansing in the previous meeting Sept. 30 and with its Big Ten reputation at stake, the Michigan volleyball team knew it could not fall to 1-3 in conference play. The Wolverines bounced back to beat the Spartans 3-2 in stunning fashion after falling into a 2-0 hole early on.
The Spartans displayed excellent blocking from the first set, blocking seven shots throughout the set. The Spartans took the set, 25-18, with Michigan recording just 12 kills and a meager 15.6 attack percentage.
The second set was competitive until Michigan State went on a 4-0 run to take a 20-16 lead, which led the Wolverines to take a timeout. The Spartans continued their surge, finishing the set with a victory 25-21.
Despite a 2-0 deficit, the Wolverines responded strongly.
“After getting down, 2-0, we just wanted to go after it,” said sophomore right-side hitter Katherine Mahlke, who ended the night with 14 kills. “We weren’t going to roll over and let Michigan State take a 3-0 win over us.”
Down 2-0, sophomore defensive specialist Caroline Knop showcased aggressive hitting and unparalleled intensity in the third set. She finished the game with a double-double of 13 kills and 17 digs. After the set was tied, 12-12, Michigan pulled ahead with five straight points to lead, 17-12. The Wolverines closed the set with a 25-20 victory.
Michigan was in the driver’s seat for the fourth set, as a dynamic offense pushed the Wolverines to a dominant 25-13 win to tie the match.
The fifth and final set was highlighted by the performance of sophomore opposite hitter Adeja Lambert, who had four kills in the set. After falling behind, 9-10, the Wolverines rallied and scored six straight points to win the set 15-10.
“When you have a team like Michigan State, you always have to give your best and go hard all the time,” Lambert said. “When we did that in the final set, things turned around really quickly.”
Added Michigan coach Mark Rosen: “I’m really proud of Adeja. She’s such a hard worker — she’s just getting better every day. I’m really proud of how she’s developing. She’s still a young player, but she’s carrying a lot of the load right now.”
Although Rosen showed enthusiasm over his team’s victory, he stressed the importance of the team’s growth. Despite a 12-3 start and being ranked No. 23 in the country, they remain seventh in the Big Ten standings.
“Michigan State is very physical,” Rosen said. “They’re one of the more physical teams in the Big Ten. As soon as we spread them out, we started to create more space between their blockers so I thought that was the biggest difference our offense made.”
Added Mahlke: “Every point is as important as the last so I think our mentality was that we didn’t want to give up even one. I think going after every point made the difference.”