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Despite second loss to Minnesota, Spartans show promise in season opener

January 24, 2021
<p>Junior libero Jayme Cox (4) dives for a ball during the game against Cincinnati on Sept. 6, 2019 at Jenison Fieldhouse. The Spartans defeated the Bearcats, 3-1.</p>

Junior libero Jayme Cox (4) dives for a ball during the game against Cincinnati on Sept. 6, 2019 at Jenison Fieldhouse. The Spartans defeated the Bearcats, 3-1.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Following a 3-0 set loss to Minnesota yesterday, the Spartans struggled again in today's match against the No. 7 Golden Gophers. 

Throughout the first two matches of the weekend, the Spartans and Gophers were neck and neck, but Minnesota kept their lead through the first match. The first set ended 25-18 as Minnesota pulled out the win late in the match. In the opening frame, senior hitter Meredith Norris ended with four kills and seven digs, while in her freshman debut, Sarah Franklin led with seven kills. 

“She understands how the game goes,” Head Coach Cathy George said of Franklin’s debut. “… She’s multidimensional, and that helped her play throughout the weekend. ... But as long as she continues those efforts and that work ethic, she has a high ceiling.”

Despite standout performances, MSU fell in a 3-0 set sweep Sunday afternoon again to Minnesota.

With a 6-2 formation: six hitters and two setters, the Spartans kept an early lead against Minnesota in the second set but ultimately fell short. During the final matchup, the Gophers kept their early advantage throughout the set and ultimately won, 25-16. 

With contributions from veterans and underclassmen, there were some shining moments from MSU. Freshman setter Celia Cullen had a match-high 31 assists with three kills, five digs and an ace. 

Minnesota closed out the first day with a .384 hitting percentage, while MSU fell behind with a .116 hitting percentage. Being left-side heavy yesterday, the Spartans made adjustments in order to keep up with the Gophers. 

“I think they exposed things we needed to be better at … which includes things such as serve receives, certain types of serves, and blocking tenacity throughout a match,” George said. 

Following the loss in a three-set sweep, the Spartans made several adaptations going into the second day of matchups against Minnesota.

With the first match in the second day of games, the Gophers ran with an early 8-3 lead with a pair of blocks. The Spartans eventually closed Minnesota’s advantage, 11-10 with a three-point run by Norris, Swartz and Monks. Although out blocking the Gophers 6-3, Minnesota closed out the Spartans’ lead, ending the set 26-24. 

Early into the second set, MSU led with a 5-2 advantage with two kills from both Franklin and Rollins but Minnesota closed out the gap 15-11 halfway through the set. With three kills from Franklin, MSU closed the gap 16-16. Falling short to Minnesota late in the match, the Spartans faced the Gophers for one final set.

Following a pair of Spartan miscues, the Gophers lead in the match, 2-0. MSU trailed behind early in the third set with a set of errors, 9-4. With Minnesota’s highly ranked recruiting class and their contributions already early into the season, MSU fell short in the final set, 25-12. 

“We saw some of those efforts pay off in the second match and we grew closer, but we still have a ways to go,” George said. 

With a strong underclassmen presence for both teams and equally strong contributions from veterans, both Minnesota and Michigan State show promise for the rest of the season. Despite falling short to Minnesota, the Spartans will make adjustments going into their next matchup. 

As the Spartan-Wolverine rivalry holds strong, the Spartans were looking forward to going into next week against the Wolverines but due to Michigan athletics stopping operations for two weeks, MSU will face Ohio State on Feb. 5-6.

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