The Michigan volleyball team started its toughest stretch of the season on Saturday, the first test being in-state, the No. 17 Michigan women’s volleyball team had the opportunity to face its in-state rival, No. 15 Michigan State. Even though the Wolverines outhit the Spartans with a .158 attack average, Michigan fell in four sets (25-23, 30-28, 25-23, 25-23).
According to Michigan coach Mark Rosen, Michigan State’s serving ability gave it a huge advantage in the match.
“They are a really good serving team, one of the best I’ve seen,” Rosen said. “That put a lot of pressure on us. It was certainly a big challenge for us.”
Michigan State leads the Big Ten in aces, and four out of the six players in its rotation are in the Big Ten’s top 10 leaders in aces. Rosen notes that the Wolverines handled this aspect well, but it was challenging.
“Before we play them again, we got to get a little better and be able to handle that,” Rosen said.
The first set started off with a 4-0 lead for Michigan but the Spartans retaliated and forced Michigan to take a timeout at 15-13. The Wolverines fought back, and a block by junior middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright and fifth year senior outside hitter Ally Davis forced Michigan State to take a timeout at 20-18. Ultimately, however, the Wolverines lost the first set 25-23.
The second set of the match started with 6-1 run by the Spartans. Michigan battled back and eventually took the lead at 18-17. The two teams were back and forth for the remainder of the set, but the Wolverines eventually came out with a 30-28 victory.
“We knew that both teams were really good and that it was going to be a back-and-forth battle, and that’s exactly what it was,” Rosen said.
The next set was no exception, as the score was very close throughout. In the third set, there were 13 ties and seven lead changes, but ended up with a 25-23 victory for the Spartans.
The fourth set was played in a similar fashion. The Spartans took the lead early on, but the Wolverines fought back to bring the score to 22-20 and eventually to 24-22. Despite its efforts, though, Michigan lost the last set, 25-22.
Kieffer-Wright had a hitting average of .435 and 12 kills. She also holds not only the team’s highest hitting average this season, but also finished the match with seven blocks.
“She was outstanding tonight,” Rosen said. “She has been playing really well, and I thought tonight was even better.”
Though they try to remain neutral about most of their opponents, playing against a rival is something special for the Wolverines.
“Every match is important in the Big Ten, every opponent is good,” Rosen said. “There’s no question it’s a little more special because it’s a rival.”