After falling short Friday against Indiana, the MSU volleyball team needed to rebound in its next match and put forth a complete effort.
The Spartans did just that Saturday against Purdue, taking a business-like approach into the match and earning a 3-0 victory to break a three-game skid.
MSU showed maturity by jumping on top early against the Boilermakers and winning key points late in the sets.
“(Friday) night we had them on the ropes and it was a tight game and we just couldn’t pull through,” sophomore setter Natalie Emro said. “(Saturday) we did not let this team into the game … we grew and matured.”
The Spartans were ahead for almost the entire first set before Purdue made a late run to pull within one point. However, senior middle blocker Vanessa King’s kill put away the Boilermakers by a final of 25-23 as the Spartans took the first set.
MSU went ahead 17-11 in the second set, but again had to withstand a Purdue surge to make it close as the match wound down. Sophomore outside hitter Becca Zlabis scored a few late points and MSU held on for an impressive two-set advantage.
The Spartans again wasted no time in the final set as an Emro service ace put them on top 11-6, and an outstanding defensive effort later in the frame made it 16-10. Senior middle blocker Mischelle Nelson made the final play that secured a 25-18 set victory and 3-0 final score.
King was impressive Saturday, leading the team in kills with 10 and also in hitting percentage, as she hit .571.
“I thought Vanessa stepped up big,” head coach Cathy George said. “She opened it up and really made it difficult for Purdue to defend us.”
The Spartans lost a hard-fought 3-2 match the previous night against Indiana, and were unable to make it a perfect weekend at Jenison Field House.
After the first two sets proved to be about as tight as they possibly could be, the Spartans appeared to seize control of the game in the third set as sophomore outside hitter Jenilee Rathje scored two big kills in the middle of the set and MSU won 25-21 to gain a 2-1 edge.
Indiana responded by getting the early lead in the fourth set and appeared to have the set won with the score 24-21, but three straight Spartan points prolonged the set. The Spartans showed resiliency the rest of the way as they fell behind twice and managed to fight back, but Indiana went on to win 29-27 to even the match at two.
MSU fell behind 3-0 in the final set, but fought back to briefly take the lead at 8-7. However, after an Indiana timeout, the Hoosiers went on a 5-0 tear and took the final set 15-12 to win the match.
Spartan players showed a lot of fight Friday, but with four tough matches on the way, said they were slightly disappointed not to get the victory against Indiana.
“(Friday) night was hard because we looked at our stats and we actually played really well,” said sophomore middle blocker Kyndra Abron, who led all players with 20 kills Friday. “It’s getting close to the end, but we just know we’re confident that we can win our last games if we can just play our game.”
The Spartans were without their leading point-getter, junior outside hitter Megan Schatzle, for most of the weekend as Schatzle is nursing a foot injury and is listed as day-to-day.
MSU began the season 12-0, but is just 5-11 in conference play. The Spartans continue in the Big Ten Wednesday at No. 14 Michigan, then face a difficult four-game stretch that will determine their final standing in the conference, as well as their chances of advancing to postseason play.
“It hurt not to get the one (against Indiana), but we really have to just keep moving on and look to our Wednesday game and do the best we can with what we have left,” George said. “We’re looking for consistency, and when we play consistent, we’re a very good team.”
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