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Volleyball looks for revenge vs. Ohio State, No. 9 Penn State

November 4, 2010

The MSU volleyball team plans to learn from past losses to take advantage against Ohio State and No. 9 Penn State during the team’s rematches this weekend.

After going 0-4 on the road the past two weeks, the Spartans (11-12 overall, 3-9 Big Ten) hope to capitalize on both teams’ style of play to take them down in front of a home crowd at Jenison Field House. They open the weekend with Ohio State (18-17, 6-6) at 6:30 p.m. tonight and play Penn State (19-4, 9-3) at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“We already know what they’re going to do, so now we have a better understanding of how to set up all our schemes and what worked against them last time and how to prevent all the things they did to us,” redshirt freshman middle blocker Alexis Mathews said.

From what they saw during their 3-0 loss to the Buckeyes on Oct. 2, the Spartans adequately are prepared to turn the Buckeyes’ unusual and fast-paced system against them, head coach Cathy George said.

“Specifically blocking, we did OK against them last time,” Mathews said. “But now that we know what shots they’re going to take, we’ve been working on having our right sides dive in and working on our middles staying inside and setting up our defense around it.”

While the team is preparing for Ohio State, players said they are not overlooking what the Nittany Lions bring to the table as three-time defending NCAA Champions.

“It’s kind of like adapting to the two different styles of play,” George said. “Ohio State pushes pace, and Penn State has just a fast system but not as fast as Ohio State. But whatever style they run, they run it well.”

Losing 3-0 to the Nittany Lions on Oct. 1, junior setter Natalie Emro said after being undefeated for 109 matches, their record this season serves as evidence that any team can take them down.

“Penn State’s defending three-time national champions, so of course they’re going to bring us a great game,” Emro said. “They’ve lost a few games on the road, so hopefully we can take one away from them this weekend.”

MSU said one of the Nittany Lions’ strengths is their physicality, which includes the incoming freshmen who also are very physical. The Spartans also said because of its championships, Penn State embodies a champion mindset to go along with its talent.

“They’re used to playing in national championships,” George said. “That’s their attitude, and that’s their demeanor.

“Their style is, ‘We are going to win a national championship,’ and so that’s tough. They’re very talented.”

While scouting their opponents often is helpful, the Spartans are not neglecting their own style of play.

The players have been focusing on the development of their on-court relationships, so they can learn to trust each other to keep the ball in the air. This is specifically being applied to the first ball that comes back at them.

“We’ve been preparing by working on little, scrappy plays to try and increase our communication again and working on trusting each other and really boosting team confidence,” Emro said.

Because the matches are so fast-paced, George said she is looking for her team to develop smoother transitions with the ball when it’s coming down between two players’ positions, which will come with trust.

Overall, MSU is getting everything out of its previous meetings with Ohio State and Penn State and is looking to put two home wins on its record.

“We know what they’re going to do, and hopefully we can exploit their weaknesses and really work hard to beat them,” Emro said.

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