Michigan State volleyball (13-4, 1-3 in Big Ten) got off to another slow start Saturday night at Jenison Fieldhouse, but was able to rally past Rutgers (6-11, 0-4) to earn their first Big Ten victory of the season.
The Spartans won the last three sets by scores of 25-23, 25-18, 25-18. Sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski set a career-high on the night with 20 kills, despite playing sparingly in the fourth set.
“If I’m doing well, there’s a lot of people behind me firing on all cylinders. I was put in really good situations by our setter and by our passing,” Chronowski said. “I still have some management to do, but I’m pleased with the outcome and I’m glad that my team trusted me to put the ball up for me and I’m glad I got the kills.”
The Spartans posted a hitting percentage of .000 in the first set and lost, 25-18, despite three kills and two blocks in the early going from freshman middle blocker Rebecka Poljan. The Scarlet Knights finished the set on a 17-5 run.
“Cathy got in the huddle, and she said, ‘Is this really how you want to play? Is this what you want to show the rest of the Big Ten that we’re gonna play for the rest of the season?’” Poljan said. “So we said, 'You know what, at this point, we have nothing to lose,' so we were gonna go out there and bang some balls.”
Chronowski led the charge in the second set with seven kills, as the Spartans built a 24-18 lead that they nearly relinquished. In the end, a block by Chronowski and freshman middle blocker Naya Gros gave the Spartans the set, 25-23.
“We let them back in. We said, 'This is unacceptable, this is not how Michigan State volleyball plays,'" Chronowski said. "So, we looked at each other like, eyes locked, and we were going to seal this one. We were not gonna let it go to extra points.”
The Spartans hit .571 in the third set, as they built a comfortable lead without ever scoring more than four points in a row. Chronowski added eight kills and the Spartans pulled away late, winning 25-18.
“We got a little more aggressive in our serving game, and it helped us out as the game went on,” coach Cathy George said.
The Spartans cruised in the fourth set, as Poljan ended the match with an empathic kill. Her brother, Tony, caught a touchdown earlier in the day for Central Michigan’s football team in its 31-20 loss to the Spartans on the gridiron.
“I think it was a perfect situation. My brother did well, and my school won,” Poljan said. “We did super well, both football and volleyball. I think it was a perfect weekend.”
The Spartans continue their homestand next Friday at Jenison Field House at 7 p.m. against Indiana.