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The Sett, Week 5 - at Michigan State

The Badgers travel to East Lansing to take on a young and improving Spartans team.

Michigan State Athletics Communications; @MichStVB

“Last” Year In Michigan State Volleyball

The best performance from Sparty last year was their 3-1 win against Cincinnati. They held one of the premier attackers in the country, Jordan Thompson, to one of her worst outings all season. (That’s a very polite way of saying “another mediocre team on the docket.”) In conference play, they held their own against unranked teams. The issue is that they play a lot of ranked teams in the Big Ten.

2021 Michigan State Volleyball

Michigan State sits at an awkward 2-5 coming into this weekend’s matches, losing 10 straight sets to open the season against Minnesota and Ohio State before finally getting to 25. (I made sure I could turn this phrase and looked to see if there were extra points, and it turns out they pushed Minnesota to some 26-24 sets. Maybe they have some fight in them!) They swept Maryland, then lost to Michigan in a rescheduled match on Wednesday of this week.

This is still a roster that started the year trying to sort itself out, as 12 players have played in at least half of the sets. There’s evidence it’s happened, as a lot of the game participation notes for each player say they played in all of the Maryland and Michigan games.

Front Court

Michigan State is pinning their offensive success over the next few years on Sarah Franklin. Her 315 swings are three times as many as the opposite pin hitter Biamba Kabengele and over a third of the entire team’s total. If you’re head coach Cathy George and you land a top 30 recruit, the best game plan is just to set her up as much as possible, both on the court and for the next few years. As of right now, she’s No. 8 in kills per set in the conference, but the errors and total attacks put the attacking percentage at .163. She did have a breakout game against Maryland.

Defensively this is not a squad that will stuff you at the net. The middle, Naya Gros, is just under a block a set, well off her pace from her last two years. Also, she’s erring on a quarter of her swings, which is awful from someone who can hit the entire court from her position.

Back Court

Remember when I said Sarah Franklin’s really talented? She’s also second in the team in digs per set, only behind the libero Jayme Cox. A freshman playing six rotations is going to be someone to keep an eye on. Her setter is another freshman top recruit, Celia Cullen. I’m eager to see what the Badger block does if Sparty does rely on “get the ball to Cullen who gives it to Franklin” as the main offensive strategy.

Game Info

Elsewhere Around The Conference

Penn State’s under .500 in conference after being swept by Minnesota and losing the fifth set against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are a surprising 7-0 now, and I didn’t consider not playing them to be a potential leg up for the conference title. Minnesota and Nebraska put their undefeated records on the line against each other in Lincoln (editor’s note: the Gophers won 3-1 on Friday night in an exciting match).

Speaking of under .500 - Stanford! You’re 1-3! That makes me happy.