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Spartans split 2 at Jenison

November 18, 2002
Sophomore middle hitter Megan Wallin blocks the ball during the MSU vs. Iowa game Friday night at Jenison Field House. Wallin had 11 kills in the three-game sweep over the Hawkeyes. —

The MSU volleyball team did everything in its power to pull out two victories this weekend. Unfortunately for the Spartans, they fell just short.

MSU easily defeated Iowa Friday night in three games, 30-20, 30-26 and 30-17, but before the weekend, the Spartans knew Saturday night was going to be the real test.

On Saturday, No. 6 Minnesota invaded Jenison Field House, and the Spartans battled valiantly to the very end. But the Gophers proved they were just that good, winning in four games, 30-24, 27-30, 30-27 and 30-21.

The weekend split puts MSU at 16-10 overall, 8-8 in the Big Ten and slotted at seventh in the conference.

MSU head coach Chuck Erbe made some lineup changes in Friday's match, most notably putting 5-foot-10 Stephanie Knopp at the outside hitter position.

Knopp delivered and was a big part of the dominance against Iowa. The junior recorded seven kills, seven digs and hit .300 for the match.

"I was very excited to see how Stephanie Knopp played because that is a big transition," Erbe said. "She has been the relief pitcher, the pinch hitter when things need to be calmed down. She is a stabilizing force."

MSU picked up the first two games against Iowa thanks to steady defense. The Spartans only hit .205 and .217 in the first two games, but their intimidation at the net held Iowa to games of .135 and .115, respectively.

In game three the Spartans were unstoppable, hitting .500 with 18 kills and only two errors.

"It was important to win this match and I think that's what our team thought going into this match," junior middle Jenny Rood said. "It didn't matter who we would have played tonight, we wanted to play well and we wanted to get that confidence going back through our blood."

That confidence carried over to Saturday's match against the Golden Gophers. The Spartans were rolling out of the gates and had the Gophers on their heels for a good portion of the match, but at crucial times MSU had breakdowns, which cost them games, and inevitably the match.

"I think people are heartbroken at the loss because it was important and it would have been a great victory, but at the same time, we left everything on the court," said sophomore outside hitter Kim Schram.

The first two games were neck and neck throughout.

But after the Gophers squeaked out game one, the Spartans were determined to stop that from happening in game two. MSU hit an impressive .385 with 17 kills and two errors in the second game, heading into the locker room knotted at one.

Yet similar to last weekend, the result after intermission wasn't pleasant. The Spartans were in games three and four, but the final stats showed the main reason for the two losses - a lowly .098 attacking percentage in game three and an even lower .045 mark in game four.

"We hit 9 percent and 4 percent - you don't beat anybody hitting that," Erbe said.

Regardless of the weekend split, the Spartans have four games left against some of the lower-tier Big Ten teams, and as Rood put it, they will go into those matches knowing how they can play.

"I think right now, the biggest focus is, we just took the No. 6 team in the nation to four games," Rood said. "You can look at it positively because we had a chance to beat them."

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