After going 2-0 during their opening weekend, Michigan State Women’s volleyball is hosting the Auto Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational this weekend. The Spartans kicked off the tournament Friday with back-to-back wins over Indiana State (0-5) and Cincinnati (3-2), growing their perfect record to 4-0.
The green and white swept Indiana State 3-0 in the first match of the tournament. The Spartans dominated the first set 25-9 and third set 25-10. Sophomore middle blocker Rebecka Poljan lead the Spartans with 10 kills and 11.5 points throughout the match.
After a several hour break, the Spartans returned to the court where they defeated Cincinnati in a 3-1 match.
The Spartans' strong team-oriented offense dominated the first set, holding Cincinnati at 12 points.
As a team, the Spartans shot down 11 kills in total across the roster.
“Our team dynamic really helped us tonight," junior Meredith Norris said. "Every single person was getting a kill. It wasn't like one person led us the entire time. It was each and every one of us.”
“It was nice to see our offense so diversified," Head Coach Cathy George said. "We really moved it around and it gave us a lot of opportunity to spread things out and get some openings.”
The second set proved much more difficult for MSU.
Although the Spartans stepped back onto the court strong, leading off with a 2-0 lead, they quickly fell behind after a 4-point Bearcat run.
The set continued to be fairly back-and-forth until a block by junior Meredith Norris followed by a kill by Poljan put the Spartans ahead by 7, marking the largest lead of the game.
Later in the set, back-to-back kills by Cincinnati's Maria Mallon and Jordan Thompson brought the Bearcats back in the game with a score of 22-20, Spartans.
Despite the Bearcats' comeback, however, a kill by Norris put the Spartans back in power at 24-21 before a solo block by sophomore Naya Gross ended the second set 25-21, and putting the Spartans ahead 2-0.
The third set was a back-and-forth affair, with strong hits coming from both sides of the court that made it hard for either team to pull ahead. The Bearcats claimed a lead late in the match at 18-16 after the Spartans struggled to keep the ball in play.
The Bearcats held the Spartans with the help of two Aces by Jordan Thompson, to end the match at 20-25, Bearcats.
Gross spoke on what the team discussed following the loss. "We talked about our energy levels. When we are low energy we don't seem to play as well, so if everyone comes together and we are a high intensity team then it tends to help us play better," Gross said.
With a fired up Spartan team not looking to end their perfect record season, MSU came back to the fourth set strong claiming a dominating early lead at 11-2.
Numerous standout saves by junior Jamye Cox and several errors on the Bearcats' side helped the Spartans maintain their lead for a majority of the set.
Cincinnati began to come back after a long volley ended with a point in Cincinnati's favor, putting the game at 23-18.
In the end, the Spartan’s held strong and a strong block by Molly Johnson ended the set at 25-20 and match at 3-1, Spartans.
The Spartans will face No. 21 Tennessee (0-2) on Saturday at 1:30 pm to conclude the Auto Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational and defend their undefeated preseason.
“Rest and recovery right now,” George said regarding the teams preperation for tomorrow. “Take what we did well, look at what we didn’t do well and know that Tenessee is a pretty tough team.”