The MSU volleyball team set a season high with 10 service aces en route to a convincing sweep over the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes at Jenison Field House Wednesday evening.
The Spartans improve to 6-3 in the Big Ten and 14-6 overall record, but left inching one game closer to the conference leading Buckeyes, who now drop to 7-2, and 18-3 overall. Head Coach Cathy George was impressed with the performance her ladies gave the rambunctious crowd at Jenison Field House.
“I thought we did a nice job of following scouting reports and staying mature throughout,” George said. “I thought their serving effort was phenomenal. I felt that they went into the match with a plan and a purpose.”
Behind four service aces from sophomore Holly Toliver, the Spartans cruised in the first two sets before needing some extra time to cap off the sweep of the Buckeyes. Toliver, who possesses a unique but deadly serve, gave Ohio State issues all night.
“I actually watched Destinee Hooker play when she was in college, she played for Texas, and I saw her serve and I went into high school practice one day and decided I was going to try it,” Toliver said. “My high school coach thought it looked good so he kept me going on it. Cathy never stopped me from doing it, so it just became my serve.”
Fellow sophomore Alyssa Garvelink, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, helped lead the Spartans to victory, recording another double-digit kill performance with ten and hitting with a 46.7% success rate. Garvelink, while humble, knows that her recent performances have built her confidence level, while helping raise the team’s level of play.
“It builds a lot of confidence, and Rachel (Minarick) keeps giving me the ball so that really helps that she has confidence in me as well,” Garvelink said. “Any way I can contribute is great. Blocking, hitting, anything.”
Sophomore Minarick, the current Big Ten Setter of the Week, finished the game with 31 assists to go along with four kills and four digs. Defensive specialist Abby Monson finished with a team-high 11 digs, and junior Allyssah Fitterer was second on the team with nine kills, and like Garvelink, hit with a 46.7% success rate.
Ohio State was arguably the best opponent MSU has faced all season. Despite the powerful style and menacing attack the Buckeyes play with, it didn’t seem to phase Toliver at all.
“As we were playing, it just kind of settled down, and all the hype about Ohio State for us — this is another team, it doesn’t matter what jersey they are wearing,” Toliver said. “We are going play some volleyball and see where it goes.”
The recent success for the Spartans, who extended their winning streak to four games, looks to continue against another highly-ranked opponent as the No. 5 Penn State volleyball team invades Jenison Field House Saturday night.
“We know we have got a lot of work to do,” George said. “We are going to enjoy this for tonight, but then get right back to work because Penn State is awesome and we know that.”
The same sentiment for the upcoming match against Penn State was echoed through the players, but just like Ohio State, the players aren’t letting the national standing of the Lady Lions affect them.
“I think that this is a big confidence booster for us, we came out really hard and focused and we believed that we had this game and that really helped,” Garvelink said. “We’ll get a strong game plan going again and we will try to play together and be focused and take it to (Penn State).”
The Spartans and Lady Lions are set for an 8 p.m. tip-off Saturday night at Jenison Field House.
“We are definitely focused on playing them, but I don’t think we are scared by any means,” Toliver said.
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