Michigan State volleyball, fresh off its first Big Ten victory this season against Rutgers, hosts two conference opponents from the state of Indiana this weekend. The Spartans take on the University of Indiana at 7 p.m. on Friday at Jenison Field House, and Purdue University the following night, at the same time in the same location.
“I feel like we’re definitely pumped up for these two games,” freshman middle blocker Naya Gros said. “The win has definitely given us a sigh of relief, some encouragement, some energy. We want to continue to win and do well in the Big Ten.”
Indiana comes into Jenison undefeated in road play this season, 11-4 overall, and 2-2 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers feature eight upperclassmen, as opposed to the Spartans’ three, and coach Cathy George called them a talented squad that is playing hot right now.
Purdue is currently 13-2 overall, 2-2 in league play, and ranked 14th in the nation by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. George identified 6’5” redshirt senior outside hitter Sherridan Atkinson, who was third team All-America last season, as the player to watch for the Boilermakers.
Sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski, who leads the Spartans in kills, would not reveal any of the game plan, but said that the approach of the team does vary based on the opponent.
“I think we kind of have our toolbox of players and plans and different plays. We’ve prepared all them during the week, then we kind of pull out which ones are gonna work that weekend,” she said.
The Spartans come off their season-high of 15 blocks last Saturday, and freshman middle blocker Rebecka Poljan credits the success to the middle line trusting their instincts.
“We were not thinking as much. When you’re blocking, when you have three hitters, it’s super hard to eye sequence all of them at the same time,” Poljan said. “It was super good to have a bunch of blocks, because that means we’re focusing on the right things.”
George believes the key to this weekend’s matches is the Spartans staying aggressive, even in the face of tough Big Ten opponents.
“We gotta score more, there's no doubt about it. We had 17 kills in the third set against Rutgers, but we had nine in a set against Penn State,” she said. “You’re not gonna win with only earning nine points on the attacking front.”
George extends that line of thinking to the service line.
“We started serving not to make errors, rather than to gain advantages. You’re gonna have to do that in the league, you can’t serve easy,” she said. “With that, you’re starting to make passing errors as we were trying to play safe. You’ve gotta play aggressive to win in this league, you can’t just hope to win.”