Michigan State volleyball prepares for its first home weekend in Big Ten play with matches against Ohio State and Minnesota, after splitting last weekend’s matches against Iowa and No. 12 Nebraska.
In three tight battles against the Hawkeyes, the Spartans proved to be victorious in all three sets with standout performances from multiple players. Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Franklin shined again with 20 kills and hit .375 alongside six digs and three blocks.
Sophomore setter Celia Cullen had 37 assists with eight digs while junior Cecilee Max-Brown tied her career best of three aces, alongside six kills and seven digs, both proving to be powerhouses for the Spartans.
The Spartans walked away with another match win under their belt, along with Michigan State Head Coach Cathy George’s 299th career win in her 17th season. Michigan State then was on the road headed to Lincoln, Nebraska hoping to take another 3-0 sweep.
Traveling to Lincoln to play No. 12 Nebraska proved to be a challenge for the young roster of Spartans as the Cornhuskers swept the Spartans 3-0. With senior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins’ return and a full stadium, the Spartans seemed to be distracted by the commotion.
Taken aback by the energy at Devaney Center, the Spartans started off slow against the Cornhuskers in the first set, with only a .024 hitting percentage alongside 10 kills and nine errors.
“I think we were just distracted by the crowd and the environment, and it sinks in at that point that we didn’t play Nebraska last year,” George said regarding their slow start against Nebraska.
Going into the second and third sets, Michigan State started to get their heads back in the game, taking a few leads and staying within a few points of Nebraska. With rallies between the teams and a Nebraska edge over Michigan State, the Spartans fell to a 3-0 sweep by the Cornhuskers.
“I thought that Nebraska really rebounded back and played with a lot of confidence and strength, and it was just a little too much for us,” George said as Nebraska led with a 7-6 edge in blocks, hitting at .250 compared to Michigan State’s .079.
After a four-match road stretch in Big Ten play, Michigan State will return to Jenison Fieldhouse to take on Ohio State and Minnesota. This weekend will be the start of four straight home matches of Big Ten play.
The Buckeyes will be coming to East Lansing 12-2 overall and a pair of sweeps against Indiana and Maryland last weekend. The following day, the Spartans will take on the Gophers who come 8-4 overall hitting .667 as a team.
“When you’re looking at the Big Ten, you’re seeing the offense of three pin-hitters … it presents some gaps in the defense and it makes you really overplay some different people,” George said regarding upcoming challenges against Ohio State and Minnesota.
Big Ten play has proven to be its own challenge for Michigan State and it will be a tough weekend for the Spartans against both ranked teams.
“Everyday you’re looking to improve your game and get stronger, and you get exploited whenever you’re weak at something," George said.
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