Sunday, April 14, 2024

Team looks for revenge, bragging rights

October 30, 2002
Junior setter Nikki Colson sets the ball during the Spartan 3-0 win over Purdue on Friday at Jenison Field House. —

It was three weeks ago, and the Spartans haven’t forgotten. The then-No. 18 Spartans went to Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor for their match with the Wolverines hoping to take down the intrastate rivalry.

Not only did they fail, the Spartans were swept 30-25, 30-20 and 30-24, playing arguably their sloppiest volleyball of the season.

The loss, in which MSU was out-hit .365 to .185, out-blocked 9-3 and out-dug 41-31, started a three game skid for the Spartans. The slide bumped them from the 18th position in the ACVA/USA Today Top 25 Volleyball poll to the 25th spot that they occupy now.

“All we remember about that match was that they spanked us,” senior middle Angela Morley said of the early-season sweep. “They haven’t seen the way we can really play.

“We want revenge.”

MSU has snapped out of the lull and is currently riding a three-game winning streak as the Wolverines come into Jenison Field House at 7 p.m. tonight.

Both MSU (14-6 overall, 6-4 Big Ten) and U-M (12-8, 6-4) find themselves knotted for third in the conference. And with both teams set to face No. 11 Penn State this weekend, each squad knows this game holds a great deal of importance.

The Spartans could have the edge going into the match. On the season, MSU is 8-0 in matches at Jenison Field House and has lost only five games at home this year.

“One of our goals this season was to go undefeated at home,” senior outside hitter Kyla Smith said. “The same thing happened last year when we played Michigan - we lost there and won at home.

“It’s going to be a battle but this time, we’re ready to play. And if we go out there tomorrow and show it, we’ll be fine.”

MSU head coach Chuck Erbe added, “We are definitely looking forward to a large crowd. The girls love playing at home and the home crowds always help them play well.”

Spicing up the rivalry even more is the fight for the “State Pride” flag.

Each school has a flag in its building, but the winner gets to claim victory by putting the year on their side of the flag.

With the Wolverines picking up the big sweep in Ann Arbor and defeating MSU by a combined 90-69, the Spartans not only have to sweep the Wolverines, they will have to beat them by more than 21 points to sew an ’02 on the green side of the flag.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get the State Pride flag back,” Smith said. “We lost it my freshman year but have won it the past two years.

“It’s my senior year and I want to keep it here.”

The match also starts the second half of the Big Ten season.

A year ago, the Spartans had a disappointing 4-6 record in the first half of the conference season.

But they turned it around, closing out the year with a 9-1 second-half performance.

With their 6-4 start this year, the Spartans aren’t in bad shape if this season’s Big Ten finish mirrors that of 2001.

Knowing this, the Spartans are confident they can make another late-season run, but it will have to start today against the Wolverines.

“We made improvements in (the second half) last year,” Smith said. “Even though this isn’t where we wanted to be right now, the Big Ten has been up and down all year.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position where if we play well in the second half, we can take the Big Ten title and it starts with the game (tonight).”

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