Spartans fall in annual Jam Jenison matchup against Michigan in three sets


MSU outside hitter Sarah Franklin tries to keep the ball alive in the Spartans’ 3-0 win over Oakland on Sept. 17, 2021/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/ WDBM

Jacob Phillips, General Assignment Reporter

East Lansing — The Michigan State Spartans lost in three sets against the Michigan Wolverines for the first Jam Jenison game since the start of the pandemic.

Starting with a 5-1 run, the Spartans looked to take quick control of the first set. Led by red-shirt sophomore Sarah Franklin, Michigan State tried to dominate the court from the beginning. Franklin was able to score five kills in the first set, she ended the night with 14 kills.

The Spartans’ defense also looked promising at the start. Senior libero Lauryn Gibbs led the Spartans’ defense with 21 of the Spartans’ 53 digs throughout the match and was halting Michigan attacks left and right.

This, however, was not enough to keep up with the Wolverine’s offense. Michigan overtook the Spartans twice during the first set and held onto a slim lead of three points. Despite a comeback attempt led by MSU junior outside hitter Biamba Kabengele, the Wolverines came away with the first set 25-23.

The Second Set saw a similar performance by the Spartans. Despite cleaning up their attacks, their defense continued to struggle. Even after establishing an early four point lead, the Spartans struggled to contend with the Wolverines. 

Led by senior outside hitter Paige Jones and sophomore outside hitter Jess Mruzik, Michigan took the lead in the second set 13-11. Both teams continued to put points on the board, but attack errors by Franklin and senior middle blocker Naya Gros prevented any real generation of momentum for Michigan State. The Spartans nearly tied the set after a 4-1 run led by Kabengele and Franklin putting Michigan State down 21-20, but a four point run by the Wolverines gave Michigan set two 25-20. 

After two sets, the Spartans defense was able to keep it close, but with their backs against the wall down two sets to none, Michigan was just too powerful. Despite leading the match in blocks and digs, with 53 and 11 respectively, the Spartans could not catch a break against Michigan’s offense. This became apparent in the third set when the Wolverines went on larger runs than anything previously seen in the match. Franklin said, “I think we were neck and neck with them through most of it and then they kind of pulled away with, again, the two, three or four serves in a row that we kind of got stuck in.”

After a 10-1 run to start set three, the Wolverines cruised to a 25-15 third set win and 3-0 match win.

This match saw several issues hinder the Spartans. Critical errors prevented MSU from holding any kind of lead. Michigan State led the night with 19 errors and a .164 total hit percentage . Despite tying the Wolverines in attacks with 116 each, the Spartans trailed in kills. Michigan scored 45 kills while Michigan State only managed to score 38.

MSU volleyball coach Cathy George looks on in the Spartans’ 3-0 loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 15, 2021/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

MSU head coach Cathy George explained how the Spartans’ inability to score kills on attacks is what cost them the match. George was especially critical of the Spartans’ performance in the second set after they only put up nine kills. “You can’t win a game with nine kills, so we’re going to have to learn how to get that taken care of.”

The Spartans also totaled 19 attack errors throughout the match, costing them crucial momentum when they needed it most. While the Wolverines had more service errors with five, they made up for those mistakes with five service aces. 

Looking ahead, the Spartans will face off against Illinois at Jenison Field House in East Lansing on Nov. 26 with the match set to start at 7 pm.