Hungry for revenge and bragging rights, the MSU volleyball team blew past No. 19 Michigan on Senior Night at Breslin Center.
While the 3-0 shutout was a team effort, head coach Cathy George said it was her seniors who stood out in front of a record-breaking home crowd of 6,829.
In addition to sweeping the Wolverines (23-8, 12-7) for the first time since 2006, MSU (14-16 overall, 6-13 Big Ten) took back the State Pride flag, which is given to the team with the most set wins against its in-state rival in a season. MSU won four sets this season to U-M’s three.
“It was great to see how our seniors stepped up today and really played great,” George said. “We were so happy to be able to have this match be their last home one.”
For the third consecutive match, senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle earned a double-double, posting 10 kills and 10 digs. It was her fourth double-double of her career and the season.
Joining Schatzle was redshirt freshman Alexis Mathews, who had her first double-double and in the two most challenging categories, nailing 10 kills and 12 blocks. This is the first time a Spartan has earned 12 blocks in three sets.
“She was really doing a nice job of tracking her hitters,” George said. “I thought she did a nice job of anticipating. She had a couple (blocks) on (Michigan setter Lexi Zimmerman). I thought that was really good of anticipating the timing of the setter tip.”
The Spartans said their momentum started with fast serving, which ultimately led to their 14 total blocks compared to the Wolverine’s 7.5.
“We’ve been practicing that all week, and we know that if we shut them down, then they have no chance,” junior outside hitter Becca Zlabis said.
Mathews said the team’s serving coordinated to take pressure off the defense, and without it, she would not have been able to have so many blocks.
“Our serving was really what helped out a lot,” Mathews said. “We kept Zimmerman out of it, so we didn’t have to worry about her so much, which means we could release out and clamp down and own the outsides.”
In the first set, MSU jumped out to a 21-15 lead over U-M and closed the set at 25-21. Mathews had seven blocks in the set, and Schatzle put away five kills.
Playing point-for-point in the second, the main lights at Breslin Center lost power, leaving the teams with a 25-minute break. The Spartans were ahead, 20-18.
“We had that delay with the lights that could have shifted momentum, but I thought our team came back and answered,” George said.
MSU won the second set, 25-23, on a solo block from Schatzle, who finished with two on the night.
After being tied at 14 in the third set, the Spartans advanced to a 19-16 lead. Junior outside hitter Kyndra Abron ended the match at 25-23 with a kill, bringing her total to seven for the night.
Zlabis also had nine kills and 10 digs. Junior setter Natalie Emro put up 17 assists and freshman setter Kristen Kelsay followed up with 13. MSU out-served U-M, five aces to two.
“We’ve become more cohesive as a group over the course of the last three or four weeks,” George said. “I think we’re playing the best volleyball of the year.”
The Spartans will travel to Evanston, Ill. on Friday for their final match of the season against Northwestern at 8 p.m. After a record-breaking win against U-M, players said they hope their momentum from tonight’s match will lead them to a final win.
“We’re not done with the season yet, but it’s a great way to come to an end of our home season to beat Michigan,” Schatzle said. “To beat Northwestern would be even better, but this is awesome and a great feeling.”
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