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Spartans Whip the Wolverines...Again! Michigan State Volleyball Defeats Arch Rival No. 21 Michigan in Gritty Four Set Performance

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State volleyball team (16-5, 5-4 Big Ten) turned in an impressive 3-1 (25-16, 23-25, 25-21, 25-23) win over arch rival No. 21 Michigan (15-6, 3-6 Big Ten) on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in front of a vivacious crowd inside Jenison Field House. The Spartan’s impressive performance on national television was paced by senior Jenilee Rathje’s double-double of 21 kills and 17 digs.


“This was an important win for us,” said MSU head coach Cathy George. “With Michigan ranked ahead of us in both the RPI and in the national rankings, we really feel like this can help us. It’s always important to get a win, especially at home against a strong team like Michigan. I think we had to make some adjustments, and I felt the team responded well. It’s important to show that the team can adapt and still come through. I thought the crowd and band were a big difference tonight. We were definitely able to feed off the energy, and when things are close, you can feel that support behind you, they are almost like another player out there.”


MSU battle tough in the opening moments of the match, but trailed Michigan early, 5-8. The Spartans took the next six points to post an 11-8 advantage. Michigan State continued to press offensively, growing its lead to 17-13, as UM called its first timeout of the match. After the next three points fell in favor of the Green and White, the Wolverines called their final timeout with MSU’s lead seven, 20-13. The Spartans would go on to clinch the opening frame by a score of 25-16, their largest lead of the set (nine). Rathje led the Spartans defensively and offensively with five digs and four kills.


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Set two turned out to be a different set for the Green and White. After continuing its momentum from set one, the Spartans posted an early 6-4 lead. The Wolverines, however, gained the lead at 8-7, and never relinquished the lead from MSU. UM turned its largest lead of the set at 19-15, forcing the Spartans into their first timeout of the match. The Green and White rallied back to force a Wolverine timeout at 23-21 and then again at 24-23. During the 24-23 rally, Rathje tallied her fifth double-double of the season with a dig in the middle of the court. Michigan took the final point immediately following its final timeout of set two. Rathje once again paced both squads in both kills and digs, with five and six, respectively.


The Green and White got back on the right with a third set win. The Spartans took control of the set after trailing in the early moments, 2-3. MSU jumped out to a three point lead at 11-8, and then a five point lead at 17-12, forcing the Wolverines to call a break. Michigan State recorded its largest lead of the set at 20-14, but allowed UM to climb back into towards the end of the set. MSU called its first break at 22-17 and then again at 22-20, before finally closing out the set, 25-21. Rathje paced the Green and White with five kills, while freshman Kori Moster was the defensive anchor with a set-high seven digs.


The Spartans got out in front to open the final set, posting a score of 3-2 in the early portion of the set. Michigan remained close throughout the set before the Green and White posted its largest lead of the set of three at 18-15. The Wolverines rallied back to regain the lead at 18-20, but Michigan State remained in the set, tying it back up at 20. After the Spartan continued their streak to four-straight points, UM called a timeout at 22-20. The Green and White suffered a bump in the road after forcing match point at 24-21, but finally closed out the set at 25-23. Rathje was the top attacker for both squads with her six kills, while Moster was the top defender with nine digs.


Moster anchored the backrow for the Green and White with her match-high 24 digs. At the net, freshman Jazmine White paced the Spartans at the net with a career-high five blocks. Seniors Kyndra Abron and Natalie Emro, and sophomore Alexis Mathews each followed closely with four-blocks, each. Quarterbacking the team with a team-best 29 assists was sophomore Kristen Kelsay. Emro followed Kelsay with 12 assists.