Jenison looks a little different this year with no fans allowed and no sea of green and blue, but the Spartan-Wolverine rivalry remains stronger than ever.
With the start of a busy week for MSU volleyball, the Spartans faced off against their in-state rival, the Michigan Wolverines.
Following the postponement of the majority of the season, Michigan started off the season with two losses to Purdue for only their third matchup of the season against MSU.
Coming off a win against Maryland last weekend, MSU was ready to take on whatever Michigan threw at them.
They did but fell 3-1 to the Wolverines in four sets (22-25, 25-20, 26-28, 19-25).
“We went in like guns blazing as a team unit and tried to work together. It was a team effort,” Biamba Kabengele said after the game.
Despite fans being very limited to only family and friends, the energy was vibrant at Jenison, nonetheless. With a rivalry this strong and a game the Big Ten loves to watch, it is no surprise the Spartans’ momentum started off strong.
The first set went underway with the Spartans starting with the ball and Franklin and Gros with a big block. The Spartans and the Wolverines went back and forth point for point while the energy remained high.
Michigan took the lead about halfway through the set with a 3-0 run, score 11-8, while MSU called their first timeout. Eventually the Wolverines led by 6 but the Spartans were able to cut that lead down by three, 18-15 Michigan.
After closing Michigan’s advantage, the Spartans tied it up 22-22, but eventually fell short in the last few set points, losing the first of three sets to Michigan, 25-22.
With a standout performance in the first set, sophomore Biamba Kabengele led for the Spartans with six kills and a .545 hitting percentage. Freshman hitter Sarah Franklin came in a close second with five kills.
“She’s a tremendous attacker and she did a really nice job of putting the ball to the floor … she definitely was being terminal for us at different times,” head coach Cathy George spoke about Kabengele’s performance tonight.
The Spartans started the second set off strong with a 5-3 lead, keeping the momentum going throughout as they held a 15-14 advantage a little over halfway through the match.
During the second set, more Spartans added numbers to the stat sheet with kills from Celia Cullen, Alyssa Chronowski, Naya Gros and Rebecka Poljan.
The Spartans got their groove back as their confidence grew, with the advantage growing to 24-19, MSU took the second set 25-20.
Keeping the momentum alive into the third set, the Spartans consistently held the advantage. Halfway through the set, the Spartans led 16-10. MSU’s hitting percentage was greater than .300 while the Wolverines only managed a .067 hit percentage in the set.
The Wolverines were able to close out the Spartan advantage, and after going back and forth point for point, the Wolverines pulled out the set win 28-26.
“And so we needed to get some stops and key moments and seemed like it took the wind out of our sails when it didn’t go our way,” George said in a post-game press conference, “When we were ahead (in the second match) we didn’t get that done.”
The Wolverines started off the fourth set with a 2-1 match lead and consistently held an advantage over the Spartans.
With the Wolverine energy thriving off of two prior set wins, MSU ultimately fell short to Michigan in the final set, final score 25-19.
“...There’s some big hitters in Wisconsin, but for the most part, just keep working, keep growing. You know, we’ve made big strides in the beginning,” Celia Cullen said in reference to adjustments that need to be made prior to Wisconsin this weekend.
The Spartans will now duel with undefeated AVCA Coaches Poll No. 1 Wisconsin Saturday, Feb. 20 at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 21 at 3:30 p.m.
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