Monday, November 30, 2020

Volleyball team rides 2 straight wins into weekend

November 4, 2009

Sophomore outside hitter Becca Zlabis spikes the ball against Illinois on Oct. 2 at Jenison Field House.

Photo by Josh Radtke | The State News

A little redemption goes a long way.

The MSU volleyball team began the second half of the Big Ten regular season last week trying to forget the first half and it worked for two victories this past weekend to break a six-game slide.

The team hopes to carry that attitude on the road this weekend and make it 2-0 against Northwestern and No. 5 Illinois.

“We’re going into it with the same attack mentality,” head coach Cathy George said. “In a 10-game season, you’ve got to get right on the matches in front of you. We’ll be prepared for both Northwestern and Illinois, and we’ll be extremely aggressive against both those opponents.”

Aggressive play made a significant difference in this past weekend’s pair of victories. The Spartans appeared to have a response each time they were challenged and were efficient in 3-0 victories against Iowa and Wisconsin.

Sophomore middle blocker Kyndra Abron led Saturday’s win against Wisconsin, earning 14 kills to lead the Spartans.

“The last few games we hadn’t been putting the ball down, but (last weekend) we got our kills and stayed focus,” Abron said. “That’s one of the things we want to work on this week is just staying aggressive.”

Players said they ran more competitive drills in practice that might have led to the change. MSU was aggressive in its 12-0 start to the nonconference season, especially in victories against then-No. 12 Southern Caland North Carolina.

Players said they’d been struggling to get the ball down during their recent six-game losing streak, but improved in that department last weekend.

With the Big Ten standings still wide open, there is room for the Spartans to slide into the upper half of the standings with good play, but for now the team is focused on this weekend.

“There’s been a lot of parity throughout the conference,” George said.

“There will be different upsets throughout the conference, and we’re just going to take care of our business and be the very best team that we can. I feel that we’ve gotten stronger through a rough spell and have gotten thicker skin.”

MSU’s quest to maintain its focused play continues with Friday’s match at Northwestern. MSU defeated Northwestern Oct. 3, but the Wildcats enter with a 4-8 conference record identical to MSU’s.

The Spartans’ Oct. 2 upset of the Fighting Illini earlier this season marks as one of the season’s highlights. Illinois hasn’t lost since that match and its players likely will have revenge on their minds.

The Spartan still believe they can earn a few more victories and strive toward the upper half of the conference standings.

“It’s fair game,” freshman defensive specialist Cheyenne VanDerSteen said. “Anyone in the Big Ten can win if they just pull out some games right now, so it’s going to be tough, but with the practices we’ve been having, we can pull them out.”

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