Sunday, April 21, 2024

Spikers play for pride over rivals

November 8, 2000
Junior outside hitter Lisa Ashton bumps the ball in a match against Minnesota on Oct. 20 at Jenison Field House. The match ended in a 3-1 loss against Minnesota. —

When MSU and Michigan compete in women’s volleyball, it’s about more than wins and losses - it’s about pride.

To be specific, it’s about the State Pride Flag that goes to the winner of head-to-head play each year.

The tradition started in 1990 when the flag was awarded to U-M. Since then, the flag has changed hands four times with both schools claiming ownership for five years.

It currently hangs in Cliff Keen Arena, home of the Wolverines.

“That’s certainly on the line,” MSU head coach Chuck Erbe said. “Our players have talked about it.”

Heading into tonight’s match the Spartans have the edge, winning the first match of the season 3-2. Erbe said the close match means MSU must win tonight to guarantee a return of the State Pride Flag to Jenison Field House.

MSU senior setter and co-captain Vicki Basil said the flag is definitely in the back of every Spartan’s mind. She said Cliff Keen Arena just doesn’t do the flag justice, adding it looks much better hanging in the rafters of Jenison.

“It is a big deal, because it means you’re the best in the state,” she said. “We just really hate U-M and that banner means a lot.”

Last year, MSU and U-M split their head-to-head matches, forcing the decision to come down to who won the most points. U-M ultimately won the flag by a margin of seven points.

U-M senior outside hitter and co-captain Sarah Behnke said the Wolverines have no intentions of giving the flag back. She said U-M respects all of its opponents, but added it expects to win every time it takes the court.

“I think the flag belongs to the team that plays the best,” she said. “I think that will be decided when we play.”

The State Pride Flag was originally the idea of Peggy Bradley-Doppes, U-M volleyball coach from 1990-91. Bradley-Doppes is currently athletics director at North Carolina-Wilmington, but said she still follows women’s volleyball.

Bradley-Doppes said in 1990 neither program was doing nearly as good as now. She said the flag was intended to take volleyball awareness to a higher level in Michigan.

“It just took some time to develop,” she said. “It’s become a great tradition. That’s what we were hoping for 10 years ago.”

Now, Bradley-Doppes said the State Pride Flag is one of the biggest rival trophies in college athletics. With both programs climbing to new heights, she said the rivalry continues to grow and that makes the flag that much more valuable to both teams.

“I wish the best of luck to both teams,” she said. “There’s a lot of bragging rights that go with it.”

Basil said MSU’s seniors really want to see the flag hanging in Jenison when they leave MSU. She said they put a lot of emphasis on the head-to-head matches with the Wolverines, but added it’s just a natural feeling as a Spartan.

“I am a Spartan and my blood runs green,” she said.


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