After a weekend full of upsets, only Ohio State remains undefeated in Big Ten volleyball. MSU dropped to 4-2 in conference play after splitting its weekend matches, but is still in the hunt for the Big Ten Championship.
Senior middle hitter Jessica Sanborn said the Big Ten conference is interesting this year. She said you never know whos going to win and everyone demands respect.
With only six Big Ten matches behind them, the No. 19 Spartans have plenty of upcoming matches against the Big Tens top teams, including one at home against the No. 11 Buckeyes on Nov. 11.
Of course we have some control, but I kind of feel like its out of control, Sanborn said. Theres so many upsets.
When the defending Big Ten Champion and National Champion Penn State Nittany Lions are 3-3 in conference play anything can happen, MSU head coach Chuck Erbe said.
MSU started strong against the No. 12 Lions on Friday, taking game one 15-11, but then fell apart, Erbe said.
I thought we had an opportunity to beat them, but we didnt, he said. We let it slip through our fingers.
With game two tied at six, the Lions went on a 15-0 run to close out game two 6-15 and start game three 0-6. MSU never recovered from the Lions offensive burst.
Volleyball is a real simple game, Erbe said. If you dont serve and pass you cant compete. That appears to be our Achilles heel.
The hitting percentage for the match tells all. In game one, MSU hit .306 then dropped to -.033 in game two. The Spartans never hit above .190 the rest of the match, while Penn State finished hitting .333 in game four.
Erbe said the Spartans have plenty of good hitters, but the passing is too inconsistent to compete in the Big Ten.
Weve got an excellent offensive system, he said. We just have to execute it.
Saturdays performance against Indiana was a perfect example of what MSU is capable of if they execute and stay focused, Erbe said.
The Spartans started strong, finished strong and never wavered in between. The Hoosiers only totaled nine points for the entire three game match.
We talked as a team about maintaining our focus before the match, Sanborn said. I think it helped and it really showed.
Erbe said the consistency of the performance was the most important aspect. He said MSU has had trouble with consistency even in the games theyve won this season.
We have had a history of coming out in the third game, after winning the first two, and dropping the third and then refocusing in the fourth, Erbe said. What I was really pleased to see was that they kept their intensity. They never let up and the points just kept mounting.
Erbe said the win over Indiana felt good, but it was tainted by the loss to Penn State. He said MSU can play better, but they need to stay focused for the entire match.
Senior setter Christie Landry said the weekend was rough, but the Spartans need to learn for it.
It just keeps you honest, she said. You cant underestimate anyone. Someones there to beat you down.
Sanborn said MSU is still in a good position to contend for the Big Ten Championship, but cant afford any more slip ups.
I think its definitely realistic, because the Big Ten is crazy this year, she said We cant lose to anyone else if we still want to win a Big Ten Championship.