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Michigan Athletics | October 23, 2016

No. 16 Michigan claws past No. 9 Penn State in 5 sets

  Michigan needed several career-best performances to hold off Penn State on Saturday.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With four players recording double-figure kills — including a career-high 27 from sophomore Carly Skjodt — the No. 16-ranked Michigan volleyball team handed No. 9 -ranked Penn State its first Big Ten Conference loss of the season in a five-set victory (25-23, 17-25, 29-27, 23-25, 15-9) inside Cliff Keen Arena.

Four players notched double-digit kills in the outing, as Skjodt led the charge with a career-high 27. The outside hitter committed just seven errors in the match on a career-high 67 swings, finishing the day with a .299 attack average. She also totaled 10 digs in the effort, marking her fifth career double-double.

Following Skjodt's lead offensively were senior Kelly Murphy and junior Claire Kieffer-Wright, who both picked up 13 kills, while junior Katherine Mahlke added 12 to mark her fifth straight match in double digits. Murphy's 12 digs also marks her third career double-double.

Guiding the Wolverine offense to a .272 attack average on the night was freshman setter MacKenzi Welsh, who earned a career-high 67 assists along with 13 digs for her third straight double-double.

Defensively, Michigan had five players with double-figure digs for the first time since the Wolverines defeated Santa Clara in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. Sophomore libero Jenna Lerg and freshman Tiffany Clark each totaled 20, as Clark's outing marked a career high, and Lerg's performance signaled her third straight outing with 20-plus digs. Welsh, Murphy and Skjodt also earned at least 10 digs apiece in the victory.

Michigan took the first point of the match on a kill from Skjodt, but the teams traded points from there until a serving run from Clark resulted in four straight points and forced a Penn State timeout at 8-4. Following the stoppage in play, the Wolverines maintained a solid lead, going up by as much as seven points. Penn State inched back toward the end of the set, coming within one, but a .324 team kill percentage gave Michigan a 25-23 first-set victory.

Though Michigan took the first three points of the second set and went up 9-4, Penn State soon settled in and rattled off five straight points to tie the game. After a Michigan timeout, the Nittany Lions took a defining lead, holding the Wolverines to just a .075 attack average in the second set of the night for a 25-17 set win.

With the match tied at 1-1 going into intermission, both teams hit the court in the third set with a vengeance. A Penn State service error gave Michigan the first point of the game, but the two teams battled from there, tying the score 16 times with eight lead changes. Following a tie game at 18-18, the Nittany Lions rallied for three straight points to take a significant lead, but Michigan responded with three straight of its own to tie the set at 24-24 and force a Penn State timeout. The teams then tied the score again at 25-25 and 26-26, but two consecutive kills from Skjodt and a Penn State attack error gave Michigan the third set, 29-27.

With a 2-1 lead in hand, Michigan took the first two points of the fourth set, looking to clinch the match. Penn State soon tied the score, however, forcing a lead that Michigan soon overcame on serving rallies from Skjodt, Lerg and Murphy. Despite a 15-11 Wolverine lead, the Nittany Lions went on a 5-0 lead to go ahead. With 12 ties and six lead changes, Michigan's .300 attack percentage and eight kills from Murphy in the set were not enough, as Penn State took the game by a 25-23 score to force a fifth set.

Despite two straight Penn State points to start the fifth set, Michigan dominated the final set of the night, earning a .500 attack average with just one team error. Kills from Mahlke, Welsh and senior Abby Cole gave the Wolverines a 4-3 lead early on, and Michigan never lost the lead from there, taking an 8-6 lead at the bench switch. An 8-3 run with kills from five different Wolverines ended the set with Michigan on top, 15-9.

The loss is Penn State's first this season in conference play and snaps its 15-match win streak. Michigan's last victory over a top-10 team was also against the Penn State — a four-set win at the Nittany Lions' home court last November.

The five-set victory is Michigan's second straight and marks the Wolverines' third consecutive five-set match.

In total, three Michigan players had career-high performances in the victory.

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