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Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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Michigan State earns season sweep in 3-1 win over rival Michigan

MSU+sophomore+middle+blocker+Nil+Okur+%286%29+celebrates+with+teammates+after+scoring+a+point+against+Michigan+on+Wednesday%2C+October+18%2C+2023+at+the+Breslin+Center.
Jack Moreland
MSU sophomore middle blocker Nil Okur (6) celebrates with teammates after scoring a point against Michigan on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at the Breslin Center.

EAST LANSING – Coming off of a victory on the road against Iowa on Saturday, Oct. 14, Michigan State volleyball turned its attention to rival Michigan for a battle at the Breslin Center. While it appeared to be anyone’s contest through the first two sets, the Spartans took firm control and secured the match at 3-1. The win also locked in MSU’s first season sweep of Michigan since 2006. 

Going into the first set, the energy on both sides was palpable, and that reflected with the play on the court. Both squads went shot for shot in the early stages and remained tight for the majority of the set. Several highlights included a monster kill by freshman outside hitter Taylah Holdem, which made it a 6-5 contest in favor of the Spartans. Another highlight was a heater by fifth year middle blocker Amani McArthur which gave MSU a 15-14 lead. Holdem and McArthur finished with 16 and 8 kills, respectively. McArthur also had a strong defensive performance and finished the match with 5.5 blocks. 

MSU fifth-year middle blocker Amani McArthur (19) celebrates with teammates after scoring a point against Michigan on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at the Breslin Center. (Jack Moreland)

“[McArthur] was blocking well except the setter,” said Michigan State head coach Leah Johnson. “I kinda got out of her way and said ‘hey just trust your instincts go get her,’ then she turned it on even more. Offensively she was really unstoppable.”

Michigan continued to fight through these punches and answered with some of their own, like the service ace by senior outside hitter Kendall Murray that gave UM a 22-18 lead. The Wolverines eventually took control down the stretch, and the contest ended on a Spartan service error, resulting in a Michigan victory at 25-20.

While the start of the second set was nearly identical to the first, this one came all the way down to the wire. The two teams continued to trade points in the beginning and midpoint, until Michigan pulled ahead by a few points at 19-16. While the Wolverines were looking to stiff arm an MSU comeback attempt, the Spartans did not go down easy. After going down 23-21 and taking a timeout, Michigan State answered the call and went on a 4-0 run behind an electrifying crowd to make it 24-23. 

“I wanted to give them some confidence that they just had to trust what they’d been doing,” said Johson about what was said in that timeout. “I reassured them of the points that had been scored and how, and honestly they just went and executed.”

The Wolverines stayed alive for a few extra points, but a critical mistake that haunted them throughout the set reared its head. Michigan made a service error and then gave up an MSU service ace by senior libero Nalani Iosia to give Michigan State the set at 28-26. The Wolverines finished the set with seven service errors while the Spartans limited theirs to two. 

While Michigan looked to bounce back heading into the third set, MSU came in aggressive. The tone was set immediately by a McArthur kill and a service ace by junior setter Julia Bishop. From there, the Spartans jumped out to a 9-1 lead. While Michigan played relatively mistake free with only four attacking errors, they could not match the offensive haymakers thrown by MSU. Michigan State finished the set out with a 25-13 win. 

“I think it was the exhale of the win of set two and then it was the ‘ok now we push,’ and that looked like the team that’s been playing all season,” said Johnson.

The start of the fourth set remained competitive on both sides, but the finish could only be described as dominant for Michigan State. After Michigan hung around following a strong start for MSU, the Wolverines eventually tied the set at 12. The flow of the set completely shifted, as Michigan State ripped off seven straight points and finished on a 12-3 run. This sequence featured two straight authoritative kills by sophomore middle blocker Evie Doezema. These were the finishing touches of a 10 kill performance for Doezema, as Michigan State earned the set win at 25-16 and the match victory at 3-1.

MSU’s Julia Bishop (left) and Nalani Iosia celebrate a Spartan win over Michigan on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at the Breslin Center. (Angelo Savino)

“I’m really proud of this group,” said Johnson. “We’re proud to accomplish what we can in this moment, and you know I think we’ve been working very hard to start to elevate ourselves to a level that’s consistent and predictable in our style of play.”

Michigan State gets its second straight B1G win and improves to a 13-7 overall record and 5-4 in conference play Michigan meanwhile remains winless on the road, going 0-8 away from Ann Arbor and slipping to 3-15 overall. 

The Spartans will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a matchup with the Golden Gophers on Sunday, Oct. 22, with gametime set for 3:00 p.m. E.T. 

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About the Contributor
Jack Moreland
Jack Moreland, Sports Photo Editor
Jack (he/him) is a Journalism major focusing in sports reporting and media photography. Growing up in nearby Okemos, Michigan, he has been a lifelong Spartan and is proud to sport the green and white. Jack is a big Baby Keem fan and is known to post on your block with your wishlist on you.

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