With six games left in the season, the MSU volleyball team is feeling awfully crowded in the Big Ten.
Holding strong, the Spartans (18-8 overall, 7-7 Big Ten) are in a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference, clamoring for position over No. 22 Ohio State and No. 16 Minnesota. The Spartans will get a chance to put some space between themselves and the Golden Gophers on Wednesday night, when they travel to Minneapolis for a crucial matchup.
As it stands, the Golden Gophers hold the edge on the Spartans, after trouncing the Spartans in a 3-0 set victory at Jenison Field House one month ago. Head coach Cathy George said when it comes to the Big Ten, any advantage one team could gain over another was key.
“It’s been a tight race,” she said. “Minnesota has played a little bit streaky at times. Sometimes they’re playing really well, and sometimes they’ve struggled. But I think all in all they have a great deal of talent, and they’re a very capable team.”
George said the team cannot use the excuse of being tired from all the travel since Minnesota played matches the weekend prior. She added that the Spartans would have to find balance in their offense instead of relying on outside hitters Jenilee Rathje and Kyndra Abron to shoulder the brunt of the offensive load.
Some of that balance could come from freshman outside hitter Taylor Galloway, who has missed most of the season with various illnesses. Galloway saw her first playing time since the last Minnesota game this past weekend and transitioned nicely into the lineup, tallying 10 digs against Iowa.
“It certainly was a struggle at first because I was so far behind everybody and I had a lot of improvement to do to get to where everybody was. But other than that it’s amazing to be on the floor,” she said. “I still have to be reminded of the little things we learned at the beginning of the season just because I wasn’t there to learn it.”
The Spartans also will look to freshman libero Kori Moster, who had a career performance against the Golden Gophers last time the teams met. Moster recorded a then career-high 24 digs in a losing effort and said having already played Minnesota once before made it easier to scout them.
“We don’t need to do anything super special to win,” Moster said. “If we all play our roles the way they need to be done, as a team, we’ll be unstoppable.”
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