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#3 Nebraska vs Michigan State Preview

Things you don’t know about the Spartans

#3 Nebraska (8-1) vs Michigan State (9-2)
When: Friday, September 23 2022, 7:00 pm (CT)
Where: Devaney Center
Video: BTN+
Radio: Husker Radio Network

#2 Nebraska (8-1)

#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ SR DS/L
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ JR Setter
#5 Bekka Allick 6’4’’ FR MB
#7 Maisie Boesiger 5’6’’ FR DS/L
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ SO DS/L
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ SO Setter
#10 Madi Kubik 6’3’’ SR OH
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2’’ SO OH
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’5’’ SO OH
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ SO OH
#23 Kaitlyn Hord 6’4’’ SR MB
#33 Hayden Kubik 6’2’’ FR OH
#44 Maggie Mendelson 6’5’’ FR MB

Michigan State (9-2)

#1 Nalani Iosia 5’8’’ JR Libero
#2 Zoe Nunez 5’10’’ GR Setter
#4 Selin Aslayan 6’4’’ FR OH
#6 Nil Okur 6’1’’ FR MB
#8 Aubrey O’Gorman 6’3’’ SO MB
#9 Emma Monks 6’4’’ SR MB
#10 Maradith O’Gorman 6’2’’ FR OH
#12 Evie Doezema 6’3’’ FR MB
#13 Aliyah Moore 5’9’’ SO OH
#17 Jayhlin Swain 5’4’’ FR DS
#25 Julia Bishop 5’11’’ SO Setter
#21 Rebecka Poljan 6’2’’ GR MB

Michigan State is a young squad with a great deal of height and hope. They are starting this season with a new head coach, Leah Johnson. Coach Johnson came from the head coaching position at Illinois State where they earned a bid to the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons as conference champions.

Interestingly, she replaced Kathy George who finished as the winningest coach in the history of Michigan State volleyball, with 302 wins. Before she coached, George played her college ball at Illinois State where she is a member of the Hall of Fame.

Coach Johnson brought two players with her from Illinois State, outside hitter Aliyah Moore and setter, Julian Bishop. Moore is the leading attacker and kill earner with 2.83 per set. She is a high flying, aggressive hitter not afraid to attack the block. Bishop comes in to set out of the backrow when the Spartans need a bigger blocker.

Coach Johnson also had a couple essential transfer portal players come to East Lansing. Libero Iosia Nalani played her first two seasons at Texas where she led the Longhorns in digs her sophomore season. Nalani leads the Spartans with 4.0 digs per set and is their best serve receive passer with a .966 passing efficiency.

Setter Zoe Nunez came from Notre Dame where she averaged 10.17 assists per set. She also trains with the US College National Team. She is just 5’10’’ so is a target for outside hitters while she is a blocker. MSU will make a double sub when she is being abused in the front row for a larger blocker and then bring Bishop in to set out of the backrow.

Lastly in the recruiting frenzy, Coach Johnson went international to bring Nil Okur and Selin Aslayan in from Turkey. They were club teammates in Turkey and now again at Michigan State. Okur is contributing 1.59 kills per set in the middle. She adds just under a block per set.

While Moore leads the team in kills per set she is followed closely by Evie Doezema and Maradith O’Gorman. These two freshman outside hitters are earning 2.65 and 2.61 kills per set respectively. Maradith came to MSU following in her sister’s footsteps.

Aubrey O’Gorman is a sophomore MB for MSU. How neat to play with your sister. I got to play one year with my sister at Army West Point volleyball. It was so cool to be a teammate with her. We both felt we had a better feel, almost a sixth sense, of where the other was on the court and knew what she would do before she did it. Something in the DNA, and I’ll bet the O’Gormans experience it, too.

Back to the present. MSU is not a great blocking team averaging as a team 2.14 blocks per set. Nebraska averages 2.67 as a team. The offensive production is lower than a team wants as well. The players averaging 2 or 2.6 kills per set are not enough to get the score to 25. If we are making a math equation out of stats, the points have to come from someone.

MSU lacks a person that can carry the load. Their preseason schedule was not against top teams in the country, so these number will only go down as conference play begins.

Nebraska needs to be sharp and execute the game plan tonight. Serve away from Iosia. Put well formed blocks in front of Moore. Expect the middles to get set from anywhere, Nunez is a talented setter that can get them the ball. GBR!