The MSU volleyball team (12-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) opened Big Ten play on Friday with a 3-0 loss at Purdue but was able to rebound in time to top the Indiana Hoosiers, 3-1, on Saturday in Bloomington, Ind.
The Boilermakers overpowered the Spartans from the beginning as they toppled MSU in the first set, 25-18. Purdue kept the Spartans on their toes as they were relentless at the net, forcing the Spartans to cover the entire floor on a number of volleys. Freshman libero Kori Moster recorded 13 digs in the defensive effort, while senior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje led the Spartans in kills with 13.
MSU showed some life in the second set, rallying to come from an eight point deficit to within one, but eventually fell once again, 25-23. The third and final set ended after Purdue broke away from the Spartans, who were trailing 14-15, to take the match 25-18. Aside from the first point of the match — a kill by Rathje — the Spartans did not hold the lead the entire night.
“Purdue came out very aggressive and put us on our heels,” head coach Cathy George said. “We didn’t fight the way that I thought we should have in that match, and we didn’t really find a rhythm until somewhat into the second set.”
The Spartans also started sluggishly against Indiana, dropping the first set, 15-25. However, they were able to rally around the offensive play of senior outside hitter Kyndra Abron, who recorded 15 kills, and Rathje, who chipped in another 10. The Spartans dominated the final three sets by scores of 25-14, 25-15 and 25-18 to notch their first conference victory of the season.
Moster, who recorded 17 digs against the Hoosiers, a career high, said the game was a defining one for the team.
“We knew that Friday’s game wasn’t how we wanted our season to be,” she said. “It was really important for us to come back that next game and prove to everyone else and ourselves that the way we played against Purdue wasn’t our play.”
For the Spartans, come-from-behind victories have been common this season. Last weekend, the Spartans won two hard fought matches after falling behind early in the first set, and the tenacity the team has shown reflects upon the leadership of George.
“In the Big Ten, we’re going to get kind of shoved around here and there,” Rathje said. “But (George) has really been stressing how we need to fight back and push them back, and that’s definitely what we did against Indiana.”
The Spartans will return to conference play on Friday as they take on Nebraska at home. The match will mark the first time the Spartans and Cornhuskers will face each other as conference opponents after Nebraska made the move to the Big Ten in June of 2010.
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