EAST LANSING, Mich. — After being on the road since September 2, No. 16 Michigan State volleyball returned to compete on their own court. The Spartans went up against Maryland early on Friday evening. Michigan State won the match in three quick but complex sets (25-14, 25-14, 25-21).
Head coach Cathy George complimented the home crowd, saying, “I think the crowd was outstanding. They were just all riled up. I think they really had an impact on the game.”
As the first set started up, Michigan State brought the fire. Dig after dig, the Spartans’ relentless attitude prevailed. Maryland showed discouragement through service errors and sloppy passes. The score was 13-6 when Spartan hitters decided to unleash their strength. Megan Tompkins and Brooke Kranda collected kills ruthlessly.
“I just wanted to play well for my teammates,” Tompkins said. “The crowd just fuels us, I think it fuels our energy for sure.”
Lacking confidence, the Terrapins ended the set with missed serves. Autumn Bailey and Holly Toliver led with three kills each. Kelsey Wicinski played a huge role in Maryland’s defense, collecting nine digs in the back line. But her cover was not enough, as the Spartans won the set, 25-14.
Maryland came out with a missed serve in the second set, continuing where they left off. Maryland put up tough blocks, giving Michigan State a hard time getting the lead. After good ball placement by Bailey, and a mistake by Maryland, the Spartans held the lead at 11-9.
Long rallies were prominent in this set. Jamye Cox kept the Spartans’ spirits up with every hit she got up. Toliver sealed Michigan State’s lead with right side kills. Maryland fought for the set, but Bailey’s outside hit finished the second set at 25-14 once again. Toliver set the bar high with six kills that set.
“I think everyone did great job,” Toliver said. “It was really fun that we had some new people come in. I love playing with everyone.”
After two sets having had the same outcome, Maryland needed to step up their game. Michigan State, on the other hand, needed to stay consistent in their play. As the set started, both teams managed to execute these things.
The lead went back and forth until Tompkins smacked the ball down for a kill. The score was then 7-3 in favor of the Spartans. She put up two more kills and Maryland missed a few more serves, and soon enough, the Spartans held a concrete lead at 20-14. Maryland pushed points, but Toliver put the points to a stop with three hard kills, finishing the match 25-21.
On Saturday night, the Spartans will face Ohio State in East Lansing at 8 p.m. This will be their fourth Big Ten Conference game of the season, and they are headed into it undefeated in the Big Ten.
“Any game in the Big Ten is a huge one for us,” Toliver said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s Maryland or Ohio State, winning that is the main goal. We just have to stay on top of them and keep pushing through.”
Overall, the Big Ten conference is filled with surprises this year. After No. 16 Michigan State’s upset against then-No. 1 Minnesota on September 24, everyone is out for blood. The conference is filled with tough competition, every game a new battle.
“You’re stupid if you think you can relax in the Big Ten,” Rachel Minarick said. “There’s no relaxing. Every team is going to come at you. We’re gonna scout Ohio State just a little more tomorrow and work on individualizing our game plan to them.”