The No. 25 MSU volleyball team came out storming, winning the first two sets against No. 23 Illinois, but mental and physical errors bogged down the Spartans, as they lost in five sets (25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 16-25, 8-15).
The Spartans (15-5 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) came off a hard loss against Northwestern on Friday. Throughout their game against the Wildcats, the Spartans almost seemed mentally tuned out at some points, but against Illinois (9-9, 3-5), it was a different story.
During the first two sets, MSU came out with high energy, and the body language from the Spartans also was far more positive than Friday’s performance.
After the Spartans won the first two games, the game took a ten minute break, per Big Ten rules. During that break, the momentum that the Spartans carried seemed to creep out of Jenison Field House, as they went on to drop the last three sets.
“We can’t use (that ten minute break) as an excuse, we have to be more mature than that and be ready to go no matter what,” sophomore libero Kori Moster said.
The Spartans now have lost four of their last six games, and the mental struggles might have come into play against the Fighting Illini on Saturday night.
“We let doubt seep into our game,” head coach Cathy George said. “We were in control in games one and two, and we just let it go.”
With this being the third heartbreaker in a row, the team will have to regain focus before they take on Michigan (16-6, 4-4) on Wednesday.
“We’re right there,” junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski said. “Yeah, this is the Big Ten, and we are going to play tough teams, and we’re not going to win every game…and that’s something we understand, and we’re going to come back and play just as hard on Wednesday (against Michigan).”
On Saturday, the Spartans offense was led by Wicinski, who had 22 kills, and junior setter Kristen Kelsay, who had 35 assists.
Both junior middle blocker Alexis Mathews and senior outside hitter Amy Dentlinger led the defense with four blocks apiece.
The Spartans head on the road for their next game, as they square off against the Wolverines at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Ann Arbor.