For the ninth straight meeting between the MSU volleyball team and the Indiana Hoosiers, the match went beyond three sets.
And for the second time this season, the Spartans (17-6 overall, 7-6 Big Ten) toppled the Hoosiers, 3-1. Senior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje tallied 21 kills in another solid outing, but sophomore middle blocker Alexis Mathews and freshman middle blocker Jazmine White were the keys to the Spartan victory. The two were a force to be reckoned with at the net, tallying seven of MSU’s 11 kills.
“We have been working a lot on attacking footwork and blocking footwork and it has really been paying off,” White said. “At the beginning of the season, we were the weaker group on the team and that kind of fired us up so we wouldn’t let our team down.”
Mathews netted a career-high in kills with 13 while White also hit a career milestone in service aces, with four.
The Spartans began the night slowly, trading points with Indiana throughout the first half of set one. However, MSU began to slowly pull away, eventually accruing a 21-16 lead which forced the Hoosiers to call their first timeout in an attempt to slow down the Spartans’ momentum. The timeout didn’t faze the Spartans one bit, as they continued to roll, closing out the set, 25-19, on a service ace by freshman libero Kori Moster.
It appeared the tables had turned in set two, as the Hoosiers built a 12-6 lead, hushing the Jenison Field House crowd. Indiana took a 15-10 lead into the media timeout and the Spartans were unable to recover, as the Hoosiers inched their way closer to the 25-point mark. A late rally by the Spartans came up short when senior setter Natalie Emro was unable to put the ball over the net and MSU fell 25-21.
MSU rebounded in the third set, leaping out to a 15-9 lead going into the media timeout. After the break, the Spartans seemed to falter, letting up three straight points by the Hoosiers. But MSU rallied back with four consecutive points, including two service aces by White, forcing Indiana to call a timeout, trailing 19-12. The Spartans eventually would win the set, 25-15, taking a 2-1 lead into what would eventually be the final score of the night.
In set four, the Spartans came out flat, once again allowing the Hoosiers to take a 15-10 lead into the media timeout. But the Spartans quickly surged back, scoring six unanswered points to take a 16-15 lead. That rally would become the turning point for the Spartans, as they would eventually take the set and the match by a score of 25-23. Mathews attributed the rally to strong serving on the Spartans’ side.
“We knew we needed to turn our serving up to sort of get them out of their system,” she said.
Although the match didn’t go as smoothly as head coach Cathy George would have liked, the Spartans were able to notch their seventeenth win of the season, making them eligable for postseason play.
“We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be and (Indiana) exploited that,” George said. “It wasn’t a pretty game, it was a little bit on the ugly side, but thankfully we were able to come away with an ugly win.”
“And that’s the sign of a good team as well,” she added.
MSU has two days of rest before the team hosts No. 11 Purdue at Jenison Field House on Saturday night.
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