Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Renewed team shows it can win in Big Ten

October 1, 2001
Sophomore middle blocker Jenny Rood, left, celebrates a point Saturday night with junior offensive hitter Kyla Smith, right. MSU won the game 3-2. —

Two weekend losses against Iowa and Minnesota would have left the MSU volleyball team with zero wins in four tries against Big Ten opponents.

But MSU didn’t fall in that hole. The Spartans won 3-0 Friday against No. 17 Minnesota and 3-1 Saturday against Iowa.

Sophomore setter Nikki Colson said the team is where they had to be after a crucial weekend.

“It’s great being back even at two and two,” she said. “We’re right back in the thick of things.”

The Spartans (9-2, 2-2 Big Ten) cruised through the first two games Saturday before stumbling in game three and just surviving game four to down the Hawkeyes 30-18, 30-16, 26-30, 30-28.

A virtually error-free Spartan team was too much for the Hawkeyes (2-9, 0-4) to handle in the match’s first two games. The Spartans attack hit an amazing .552 compared to Iowa’s negative .061.

“In games one and two we were connecting, we were in system and we were passing and serving well,” Colson said.

Colson finished with a match-high 49 assists.

But games three and four were marred with Spartan serving and attack errors, allowing Iowa back into the match.

“In the third and fourth games we just came out with too relaxed of a mentality and it showed,” Colson said. “They came back strong and pushed us, and thank God we had enough left in us to stop the bleeding and finish them off.”

Spartan head coach Chuck Erbe said the team has to solve its inconsistencies if it wants to remain competitive.

“They can’t come out and be all-world in games one and two and then all of a sudden become lax in the next game because if you do that you’re vulnerable,” Erbe said. “You never know when it’s going to cave in, and I don’t understand it.”

The Spartans got double-digit kills from five players, including a match high 15 kills from junior outside hitter Kyla Smith. Smith also tabbed a career-high of four solo blocks.

“I felt really confident and I felt ready,” Smith said. “I struggled last weekend against Wisconsin and Northwestern, and I wanted to make up for it.”

Senior outside hitter Erin Hartley recorded her second double-double of the season as she tallied 14 kills and 11 digs.

And while Saturday’s match showed inconsistencies, Friday’s tussle with the Golden Gophers was a sustained effort.

The Spartans swept the match 30-17, 30-25, 30-27 to hand the Gophers their first conference loss.

“To me the one thing that really represents our concentration and our being focused for the entire match was we only had three receiving errors,” Erbe said.

Even more impressive was the Spartans containment of second team all-America setter Lindsey Berg’s driving jump serve.

Berg served 25 last times Sept. 19 versus Iowa, with 18 of the serves scoring points.

“I knew that Lindsey Berg was huge to their overall game plan,” Erbe said. “And I knew that they really needed her to score points whether with aces or by putting us in a difficult attacking position.

“So we talked a lot about preventing that, and we executed tremendously.”

Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said the Spartans preparation for Berg’s serve helped keep the Gopher offense dormant.

“I’m sure Chuck prepared his team to handle her serve and they did,” he said. “They picked it up pretty well tonight, and we couldn’t get too much else going.”

The serving and passing part of the game proved to be crucial, as the Spartans controlled these areas..

“Everyone did a great job passing and that helps so much,” sophomore middle blocker Rood said. “When you have a good pass, you can set your middles in system and your outsides in system and the other blockers don’t know were to go.”

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