Sunday, April 14, 2024

Spartan spikers put up winning weekend

The No. 25 MSU volleyball team played two different kind of matches this weekend, but in the end, they did just what they expected - pick up two victories.

The Spartans defeated Purdue Friday in a three game sweep, 30-23, 30-23 and 30-19. On Saturday, MSU outlasted Illinois in a five-game marathon match 38-40, 30-22, 30-21, 25-30 and 16-14.

With the pair of victories, the Spartans improved to 14-6 on the year. Their 6-4 Big Ten record puts them in a five-way tie for third. Purdue fell to 11-11 overall and 0-10 in the Big Ten, while Illinois dropped to 9-10 on the year, 3-7 in conference play.

“Last year, we finished 4-6 in the first half of the Big Ten,” MSU head coach Chuck Erbe said. “We recovered and finished 9-1 in the second half, so I think we’re in a good position right now.”

Friday’s match was one the Spartans expected to win. The Boilermakers have taken some opponents to a fifth game this season, but with a freshman setter, Purdue has struggled.

The Spartans hit a solid .328 for the match, while holding Purdue to a dismal .142 kill percentage. MSU also used their defense to slow down the Boilermaker attack, outblocking their opponent 11-4.

Erbe and his players knew Saturday’s match with Illinois was going to be the weekend’s more difficult contest. Players didn’t expect the match to go into a fifth game, but their captain kept things under control.

“When we get into close matches, we always say, ‘this is our house,’” junior setter Nikki Colson said. “That’s our driving motivation when we get into a fifth game. We don’t let anyone win a fifth game in our place.”

The way things started out, it didn’t look like there was going to be a fifth game. And to make matters worse for the Spartans, it looked like they were going to be on the losing end.

The first game was the longest contest in MSU volleyball history, stretching for over 30 minutes and totaling 78 points. The Spartans and Illini traded 18 consecutive points at one time, but MSU never get on op.

It could have been devastating, but led by Colson, the Spartans battled back.

“After that first game, I was ticked to tell you the truth,” Colson said. “I felt possessed to win the next game.”

MSU did just that, winning the next two contests fairly easily. A slip in game four set up the deciding fifth game - a game that MSU trailed for most of the time. But when it mattered, the Spartans made key digs, flawless passes and smart attacks to pull out the victory.

Erbe said it was one of the ugliest match MSU had played in all season and the numbers back him up. The Spartans hit .191, which normally would pit them on the losing end. But their defense, which set a new record with 24.5 blocks in the match, held the Illini to a .156 attack percentage.

“I guess they say the mark of a good team is to win the ugly ones,” Erbe said. “And I guess tonight, we made our mark.”

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