It finally happened.
The Spartans (19-7 overall, 7-7 Big Ten) kicked off their exciting weekend against Iowa (10-17, 2-12), sweeping them in three quick sets (25-20, 25-16, 25-18).
The Hawkeyes, who have been swept in four-straight games prior to visiting East Lansing, were an ideal team for the Spartans to fine-tune their skills against before playing Nebraska.
The match against the Cornhuskers (18-5, 10-4) would not only be a test against a tough team, but a challenge to see if the Spartans could go 2-0 during a Big Ten weekend.
“All week we’ve talked about how we have to avenge some of the losses we’ve had,” sophomore libero Kori Moster said.
More than 4,500 MSU and Nebraska fans packed into Jenison Field House after the football game. To the fans’ surprise, the battle between the teams indoors was just as thrilling as the game on the gridiron.
Unlike the football game, however, the Spartans were the ones walking away with the “W,” winning in five sets (25-13, 23-25, 25-18, 23-25, 17-15).
The Cornhuskers, who won 10 of 12 games coming into Jenison, defeated the Spartans more than a month ago in three sets. The Spartans assured everyone that the tone of the match wouldn’t be a flashback, as they took the first set in a convincing 25-13 victory.
The rest of the match was a back-and-forth battle, as the teams exchanged leads and momentum that carried all the way to the fifth set.
The Spartans appeared to seal the fifth set early on by jumping out a 5-1 lead, but that only lasted so long against the tough Cornhuskers.
The Nebraska fans, who made up an estimated one-third of the crowd, were creating all the noise in Jenison, as they found themselves one point away from victory, leading 14-11. At that point, the Spartans called a timeout and gathered in a huddle to regroup and figure out how they were going to cut down the deficit.
“We went in the huddle and (said), ‘All right, one at a time, that is all we can do, and we have nothing to lose, so let’s just go out and play aggressive,’” junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski said.
The Spartans did just that, as they scrapped back point by point to win the adrenaline-filled set, 17-15.
The win over the No. 4 Cornhuskers is the biggest win for MSU under head coach Cathy George, who was glad that her team overcame adversity to win their first five-set match since Sept. 7.
“We needed to win a five-game match, and we’ve been going five with a lot of great teams, but haven’t been able to close the door,” George said. “It didn’t look like it was going to go our way this time either, but it really showed a lot of resilience and toughness in our team to shut the door and come out with a win that game.”
It was a total team effort on Saturday, with four players having double-digit kills, including Wicinski with a team-high of 19. Junior setter Kristen Kelsay helped the attack by contributing 32 assists.
The defense at the net was a team effort as well, with three players having at least five blocks, including sophomore middle blocker Jazmine White with eight. Three players also had double-digit digs, including Moster, who had 20 digs.
MSU looks to carry its momentum into next weekend, as it takes on Minnesota and Wisconsin at Jenison Field House.