Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Team looks for first conference wins

September 28, 2001

The MSU volleyball team is out to prove it’s not knocked out after losing two straight in last weekend’s Big Ten opening matches.

The bell rings to start the second round at 7 p.m. today at Jenison Field House when the Spartans take on No. 17 Minnesota (8-2, 2-0 Big Ten). The Spartans follow-up at 7 p.m. Saturday at home with Iowa (2-6, 0-2).

“This weekend gives us a chance to get our confidence back and a chance to prove we can play with a good team,” junior outside hitter Kyla Smith said.

The Spartans haven’t lost at home yet this season, but the Golden Gophers will try to spoil the conference home opener after sweeping both Iowa and Purdue on the road last weekend.

“The match really boils down to the serving and passing game whenever two teams of relatively equal ability meet,” Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said.

Spartan head coach Chuck Erbe agrees on how crucial those facets of the game will be.

“We have to have a good serve and pass game,” Erbe said. “We have to cut down on unforced errors, especially when serving or passing the ball.”

The Gophers have four new starters mixed in with returning All-Big Ten setter Lindsey Berg and second team All-America middle blocker Stephanie Hagen.

Erbe said the two teams are similar compositions.

“In terms of talent to talent, Minnesota and MSU have comparable talent, and athletically we’re very comparable,” he said. “We both have a mixture of upperclassmen and younger players, and we both have freshmen contributing.”

As difficult as it may be for the Spartan players not to dwell on the losses last weekend at Wisconsin and Northwestern, junior defensive specialist Emily Engel said the team needs to be concerned with itself, not the past.

“All we need to do is worry about our side of the court and play our best,” she said. “If we can play our best, hopefully we’ll win.”

The Spartans will come back to the gym Saturday to tangle with the Iowa Hawkeyes, who lost at home to Minnesota and at Purdue last weekend.

Outside hitter Sara Meyermann and her team-high 6.39 kills per game lead the Hawkeyes. Her 147 kills are more than double any other Hawkeye has recorded.

“She’s their go-to player in every situation, whether she’s in the front row or back row,” Erbe said. “She’s definitely a focal point, but you can’t ignore the rest of the players.”

But you can ignore the past. Or at least try.

“We need to stay focused on ourselves because we practically beat ourselves last weekend,” sophomore setter Nikki Colson said.

And one solid week of practice has lifted the Spartans’ spirit, she said.

“We came in here Monday, and we were still kind of blah about last weekend,” Colson said. “But once we got started and into the flow of practice, it’s been really upbeat here.”

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