The MSU volleyball team will open its Big Ten home season at 7 p.m. on Friday, as they host No. 7 Nebraska at Jenison Field House.
The Spartans (12-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) are looking to build some momentum after splitting last weekend’s Big Ten matches against Purdue and Indiana. MSU will have to stop the Cornhuskers’ momentum as they are currently boasting a seven-game winning streak and coming off two impressive weekend victories over No. 24 Ohio State and then-No. 5 Penn State.
The match will mark the first time in any sport Nebraska has traveled to East Lansing since the school joined the Big Ten conference in June 2010. In the all-time series, the Cornhuskers hold a 8-0-2 advantage over the Spartans.
In order to win, the Spartans will have to find a way to penetrate Nebraska’s defense, which is anchored by libero Lara Dykstra and middle blocker Hayley Thramer.
Several times this season, the Spartans have had to fight back from a deficit to win. Freshman libero Kori Moster said the team will need to come out strong against Nebraska and focus on not getting ahead of themselves.
“I think going point by point is something we have to learn how to do,” she said. “It’s hard because you want to get to that 25 point mark first, it’s a part of the game.”
The Spartans are counting on senior outside hitters Jenilee Rathje and Kyndra Abron to crack through Nebraska’s staunch defense. Rathje has racked up 4.07 kills per set while Abron has recorded 3.56 kills per set. As a team, Michigan State is currently boasting the top hitting percentage in the Big Ten with .321.
On the defensive side of the net, sophomore middle blocker Alexis Mathews is second in the conference for blocks with 1.49, while senior libero Carli Weiler currently holds a career-best 2.80 digs per set.
“Blocking is one of our strengths, so that will be one of our focal points,” freshman outside hitter Taylor Galloway said. “It’ll mean playing a lot of really tough defense, playing aggressive and putting the ball down.”
Since the match is the first home match for MSU in Big Ten play, and also the first chance MSU fans will get the chance to see what Nebraska brings to the conference, turnout is expected to be high.
The following night, the Spartans will host Iowa for pajama night, in which the team staff will wear their pajamas during the match to show support for children with cancer.
Head coach Cathy George said the team will be careful not to underestimate the Hawkeyes, who have yet to win a Big Ten match this season.
“Iowa is a good team, they started the conference very well, and although they’re 0-2, the teams they’ve played are very tough,” she said, “There’s two girls from Michigan there, they’re going to play aggressive, and I think they’ll try to get in there and pull the upset.”
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