In a top-10 matchup between Nebraska and Michigan State, both teams entered the match undefeated in conference play and fighting for first place in the Big Ten standings. In a hard fought match by both squads, the Spartans came out on top 3-1 over the Huskers.
MSU opened up the first match with a Lauren Wicinski ace that gave MSU a 6-3 lead. Allysah Fitterer followed with a kill and Wicinski had another ace before the Huskers took a timeout. MSU gained a six-point lead with a Kristen Kelsay ace taking MSU’s lead to 13-6. Nebraska was able to close the gap to 15-13 with kills by Cecilia Banks and Kelsey Robinson. It was a bank and forth battle for points that brought the score to 20-19 before Wicinski had a kill and Nebraska had a poor set making coach John Cook take a timeout. Wicinski came out of the timeout on fire with back-to-back kills bringing it to set point. Robinson had a kill for Nebraska to keep their hopes alive but Alexis Mathews had a block to finish the set 25-20.
Nebraska took a 7-3 lead due to four consecutive Spartan errors before coach George called a timeout to regroup. The Spartans came out of the timeout strong gaining three points in a row to bring the match to a tie on a lengthy volley. The fight for points kept the set close with seven ties between the two teams at 12 a piece. MSU was able to gain two points off a service error by Morgan Broekhuis and a kill by Mathews. The teams met again at 17 but Kelsey Kuipers had a kill to give the Spartans a point advantage over Nebraska. Nebraska gained the lead for the first time at 18-19 but MSU was able to bring it yet again to a tie before Robinson killed the ball and brought the score to 21-20 for Nebraska. Wicinski followed with a kill of her own to tie it up but followed after with an out of play ball to give Nebraska a point. The score was tight in the end of the match, being tied at 24 but a Wicinski kill brought it to set point and a forced a Nebraska timeout. After 10 ties in the second set Mathews was able to close it out at 26-24 for MSU giving the Spartans a 2-0 lead going into intermission.
With the game on the line for Nebraska, they opened the third set with a strong 9-4 lead before MSU took a timeout. Nebraska gained an eight-point lead before MSU came back with a kill by Reinig and a block by Mathews. With Nebraska up 15-7, Reinig got a kill but Nebraska followed with two points bringing the score to 17-8 and MSU calling a timeout to try and stay in the set. Wicinski cost the Spartans a point with a set error and Robinson had a kill to give the Huskers two more points. MSU tallied three consecutive points with a Wicinski kill and two Nebraska errors that brought the Huskers to call a timeout at 11-19. MSU cut the Huskers lead to five thanks to a Wicinski kill, but followed with an attack error to give Nebraska a 21-15 lead. Taylor Galloway had a fierce kill to keep the Spartans spirits alive at 21-18 and make coach Cook take a timeout. Nebraska came out of their huddle aggressive to gain two points, but Fitterer and Reinig gave the Spartans a chance at 23-20. Meghan Haggerty brought the Huskers to set point and Robinson finished the third set at 25-20 for Nebraska.
Fighting point for point early in the fourth set, neither team was ahead by more than one point until MSU pulled ahead by two at 9-7. The Spartans struggled to keep the two-point lead as Nebraska closed the gap but Reinig and Wicinski kills brought the score to 12-9. Spartans gained a four-point lead at 14-10 making Nebraska call a timeout. Nebraska brought the score to 16-13 but a block by Jazmine white gave the Spartans a four-point lead. In a long volley between the teams Nebraska was able to close the Spartans lead to two at 18-16. A Mathews kill and a Fitterer block got the Huskers to call a timeout at 21-17. Fitterer brought the set to 23-18 with a kill but a Robinson kill gave the Huskers a point. Wicinski brought the match to set point and the game was won 25-20 for the Spartans due to an attack error by Mary Pollmiller.
With 4,288 fans in attendance the Spartans were able to keep their Big Ten record untarnished with a 3-1 win over Nebraska. Next weekend the Spartans will be on the road at Minnesota and Wisconsin in hopes of remaining the Big Ten leader.
-The Big Ten co-players of the week, Wicinski and Robinson, had nearly identical final stats. Robinson finished with 20 kills, two assists and 12 digs while Wicinski ended with 20 kills, three assists, nine digs and two aces.
Jennifer Swanchara is the host of Bump, Set, Spike for Impact Sports