Michigan State volleyball (17-14, 5-13 Big Ten) lost a 3-1 split against University of Michigan (20-9, 9-9) at the annual Jam Jenison event Saturday night at Jenison Fieldhouse.
The meeting between the Spartans and the nineteenth-ranked Wolverines marked the first of two in a span of seven days.
In the first match, there were 16 ties and seven lead changes. Freshman middle blocker Naya Gros had a soft touch early on, getting the Spartans back into the set after falling down 5-7 to start. The back and forth play would lead to a tie at 14. A big block from sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski gave the Spartans the lead at 15-14.
U-M responded by going on a pair of 3-0 runs, capitalizing on the Spartans' mistakes, and ultimately took the set 30-28. MSU hit 22.5 percent and had 16 kills in the first match.
“We’ve got back-to-back recruiting classes that are in the top ten in the nation. We expect that we’ll go ahead and continue to get better," MSU coach Cathy George said postgame. "Experience is something we’re using right now, we’re getting better and better because we’re learning from every time out. Now, it’s about getting ourselves to just continue to sustain high levels of play … and as you get older and mature, you start to find time to handle those moments differently.”
The second match was all MSU. Early on, Gros played a big role in the Spartans' 6-0 run, with two blocks and three kills. The largest lead for MSU (19-16) came from a Poljan and freshman outside hitter Molly Johnson block, and MSU never let the Wolverines come within five points after that.
The Spartans took set two, 25-18. Poljan and Gros lead the team, both hitting 57.1 percent. Freshman defensive specialist Lauryn Gibbs had three digs and five team blocks.
“I think that our service was 100 percent more aggressive in the second set," Gros said. "We got on that really big run driven by Midge (junior setter Maggie Midgette). She lead us in that second set by serving really aggressive … making it easier on the blocker to get set-up and the defense to get set-up around it.”
In the third set, MSU went on an early 3-0 run (4-1 lead), capitalizing on the Wolverines' errors this time around unlike in the first set. Chronowski earned four of MSU’s points with four kills, before U-M went on a 5-0 run of its own.
The Wolverines eventually cleaned up their mistakes and took set three, 25-17. Redshirt senior outside hitter Maddie Haggerty hit 37.5 percent in the set, leading the way with her four kills. MSU as a team had 10 digs and one block.
“I think their back row attack pretty much killed us," Haggerty said. "I think we really need to clean up all of our errors. I think we need to execute at better times. I think we made silly errors at times when we really couldn’t do that. I thought we had a good passing night, so we gotta get our offense going."
Set four was a long battle that ended up coming down to the last few plays. U-M went on an early 5-0 run, but the Spartans didn't go down easily, as there were 14 ties and seven lead changes in the set. The Wolverines would sealed the set and the game, however, winning 26-24. Gros hit 100 percent on six of her kills, followed by Haggerty hitting at 25 percent. MSU had 20 digs and one team block.
“I think it says that we’re working hard and we’re getting better," Haggerty said. "The Big Ten is the toughest in the country. Every night it’s a battle and we’re getting better with every team we play.”
The Spartans will have a chance for redemption against the Wolverines this Saturday at the Crisler Center, but not before they take on Illinois in their final home game of the season Wednesday at 7 p.m.