Spartans Fall to UNC in Home Opener

There was no shortage of energy at Jenison Field House Friday night.

It was evident in the stands, obvious on the court.

However, it did not work in the Spartans’ favor.

Although they showed moments of promise early in the game, the No. 14 Spartans fell to No. 20 North Carolina in their home opener: 25-17, 25-20, 25-22.

“It was a learning experience no doubt with North Carolina,” MSU head coach Cathy George said. “They’re a very good team, a veteran team that plays well together, so they came out being the aggressor from the get-go and we were stuck behind most of the match.”

The contest, part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, certainly lived up to its hype.

North Carolina broke a closely fought first set open at the halfway point. Michigan State made a late comeback in the second set, albeit unsuccessful.

The Spartans’ best performance came in the third set, where they jumped to an early lead and remained competitive during the tie that lasted most of the contest. However, a service error by Megan Tompkins and an attack error by Rachel Minarick ultimately sealed the win for the Tar Heels.

Minarick had an otherwise impressive performance in the match with 21 assists. Chloe Reinig and Kori Moster were also players of note for the Spartans. Reinig had nine kills in the contest and Moster had four digs.

The Spartans are a young team, with a total of 12 underclassmen on the roster.

Moster, one of two team captains, said Friday’s loss to North Carolina is not reflective of the team’s potential, but rather, an opportunity to improve.

“This is a process,” Moster said. “Tonight is by no means how we are capable of how we are playing or how we want to. It is a growing process and we’re going to take something from every match, win or lose, that we can grow in.”

Moster also said playing North Carolina is crucial in preparing for Big Ten play, where six of the Spartans’ opponents are ranked in the Top 25.

“You’re going to be playing ranked teams back-to-back nights (in the Big Ten) and (the focus) is ‘how do we regroup for tomorrow?’” Moster said.

The loss breaks a streak of 18 consecutive non-conference home wins for Michigan State.

George said she is disappointed to see the streak end, but hopes the Spartans  will rise to the occasion against the rest of their non-conference opponents.

“We play tough competition,” George said. “We’re going to need to have teams all through this pre-conference schedule that are ranked and are going to present a challenge.”

Michigan State is now 4-1 on the season. The Spartans will continue the ACC-Big Ten Challenge tonight at home against No. 19 Duke at 5 p.m.

Alex Tekip is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: Michigan State University Women’s Volleyball