In its first home weekend of Big Ten play, Michigan State volleyball proved it can stay toe to toe with ranked teams, despite losses to Ohio State and Minnesota. The Spartans fell short to the Buckeyes and the Gophers in three sets, but not by larger than a seven point and four point margin, respectively.
As the Spartans compete in more matches together, it seems their team connection and energy continues to grow, but with that comes the need to make tweaks on the points that prevent them from winning.
“We’re playing hard against great teams, and even just knowing that we’re right there, it’s just we’ve got to play with that kind of patience,” George said regarding the loss to Ohio State. “We’re going to look back and kick ourselves for those moments.”
Starting off in the first set against Ohio State, the Spartans started with an early 6-3 lead off a 3-0 run and throughout the match rallied against the Buckeyes. With Franklin and Max-Brown staying on top of the offense, MSU was able to keep up throughout the set.
A Sarah Franklin and Cecilee Max-Brown duo led the team with ten kills each and an additional five blocks from Franklin. Sophomore Celia Cullen proved to be an asset for in green and white with 31 assists and six digs.
Across all three sets, the Buckeyes and Spartans had 31 ties and 16 times they went back and forth to hold the lead. Consistently, Michigan State struggles with service errors and so did Ohio State Friday night, a total of 16 between the two teams.
Although they fell short in all three sets, the first two sets were only by a two point margin for the Spartans. Michigan State was ready to make corrections and come back to Jenison Fieldhouse to battle Minnesota the following night.
“We just let up on those really important moments, we took a play off mentally. We might’ve forgotten a play they were running and missed that assignment,” Naya Gros said in regards to a close loss. “I feel like during those times, when it’s that close to the game, you have to be on every point.”
After a loss to the Buckeyes the night prior, the Spartans returned to Jenison ready to take on the Gophers. Despite falling 3-1 to No. 8 Minnesota, MSU set losses were not greater than by a four-point margin.
Starting off in the first set, the Spartans went on a 7-0 run with a kill from Max-Brown and Emma Monks duo on a block. Multiple Spartans across all four sets had shining performances.
Franklin proved to be a versatile powerhouse again with a double-double of 16 kills, 11 digs, five blocks and two aces against the Gophers. Biamba Kabengele added 11 kills for the Spartans and Cullen with 39 total assists.
On the defensive end, Edmonds showed out with 14 digs and three aces from Talia Edmonds alongside seven blocks from Monks.
As a team, the Spartans out hit the Gophers in the first two sets and had a 12-5 edge in blocks, alongside seven service aces. Despite these stats, Michigan State wasn’t able to pull it together to take the match from Minnesota.
“We’re finding ourselves in a great position and we’re just really making some untimely errors … ,” George said as she noted the team’s efforts against two ranked Big Ten teams. “... It is not easy in our league but nobody’s gonna give you those points at that time and we had to flat out earn them.”
Michigan State will next compete against No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 9 Maryland in the second home weekend of Big Ten play on Oct.15 and Oct. 16.
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