Saturday, November 26, 2022

Spikers turn corner in Big Ten with sweep

October 21, 2007

Sophomore middle blocker Vanessa King spikes the ball to Minnesota’s side Saturday. King made a total of 14 kills, helping MSU to a 3-0 victory over the Gophers.

Photo by Nichole Hoerner | The State News

For the first time this season, the MSU volleyball team (13-9 overall, 4-6 Big Ten) clinched its back-to-back Big Ten matchups.

Starting with a 3-0 sweep against Iowa (9-12, 1-9) Friday, the Spartans kept the trend going to upset No. 13 Minnesota (12-8, 5-5) 3-0 Saturday.

“We’ve definitely turned a corner,” senior outside hitter Jessica Hohl said. “And it’s for the better.”

Prior to the weekend, the spikers had dropped six of their last eight contests — including a four-game losing streak. Hohl said that the weekend’s victories helped boost the team’s confidence.

“Now I think we feel we can start adding two wins a weekend every time we go out into Big Ten play,” she said.

MSU head coach Cathy George credits the team’s much improved defensive play for the changing record.

“We have made significant strides in our defensive performance over the last two weeks,” George said. “It has just been so much more aggressive on the defensive end, and we are averaging somewhere around 18-20 digs per game, which is huge because we used to be at about 12.”

The Spartans totaled 96 digs for the weekend.

Game two against Minnesota proved to be the pivotal point. Both teams battled point for point, having a tied score 14 times throughout the second game — which MSU ended up taking 35-33.

“I thought we played very well (Saturday), everybody stepped up with clutch performances,” George said, noting that the Spartans kept Minnesota from capitalizing on any of its six chances to claim game two. “(Game two) was down to the wire and our team continued to answer every time Minnesota came at us.”

Hohl added that the team remained calm and poised throughout the pressure situations.

“I felt that everybody out there just had this underlying confidence and we had a trust out there,” Hohl said. “We were determined and we did it. We won.”

Saturday’s victory marked the first time the Spartans have defeated the Gophers since 2001.

“Minnesota has such a fine program. They are trained well, they fight, they compete, and we knew it wouldn’t be an easy answer,” George said. “We played with a lot of confidence and an aggressive spirit — I think that gives you an edge.”

MSU will face off against Northwestern on Wednesday on the road before returning to Jenison Field House, 6:30 p.m., on Saturday to seek revenge against Michigan.

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