Following a three-game home stretch, No. 8 Penn State travels north this weekend to take on conference opponents Michigan and Michigan State.
Coming off of three straight Big Ten victories, the Nittany Lions take on the unranked Wolverines on Friday night at the Crisler Center.
“It’s a much larger venue than it is normally, when we play in their other facility,” Russ Rose said. “We’re going to have to be ready to play well on Friday night, and we’re playing in their basketball arena, so we know that there is an opportunity for a big crowd, and we’ll have to be ready to play.”
Michigan’s high powered offense should provide Penn State with another test comparable to that of Wisconsin just weeks ago. The Wolverines started conference play 5-0, with just one Big Ten loss thus far, coming last weekend against national powerhouse No. 5 Nebraska.
“I think that the fact that Michigan started with five wins in conference play and beat Ohio State twice is a good reflection that they’re playing really well,” Rose said. “They’re a really strong serving team, so we have to be really good at serve reception, and be ready to defend a real fast offense.”
Coming off of a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award, Penn State senior libero Kendall White will face off against the heart of the Michigan offense, sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones. Jones averages roughly 3.5 kills per set, and has 20 service aces this year to date, proving to be one of the better hitters in the conference.
Sunday’s match against Michigan State, however, will pose a slightly different challenge for the Nittany Lions. The Spartans are 6-6 in the Big Ten thus far, and lost to Penn State in just three sets when they played earlier this season.
“We’ve played Michigan State, so we’re familiar with them,” Rose said. “I saw them play [Friday] night against Nebraska, and they’re playing very well.”
Michigan State leads the Big Ten in blocks, which makes this matchup beyond fitting, considering the fact that Penn State is second in the conference in hitting percentage.
However, Michigan State also ranks highest in the conference for kills by opponents. This bodes rather well for the Nittany Lions, showing that if Penn State’s hitters can neutralize the Spartan middle they have a solid opportunity to light it up on offense.
Penn State will play against Michigan on Friday at 7:00 p.m. and against Michigan State at 2 p.m. on Sunday.