Spartans stumble to winless weekend at home
Junior middle blocker Kelsey Kuipers (10) reassures junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (15) before the start of a game against Illinois on Saturday Oct. 13, 2012 at Jenison Field House. Katie Stiefel/ State News
The MSU volleyball team had a pair of games in Jenison Field House over the weekend, but not even the home crowd could push the Spartans to victory.
On Friday, the Spartans (15-5 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) hosted Northwestern (13-6, 2-6), but the Wildcats snapped their two-game losing streak by defeating MSU in four sets (25-17, 19-25, 25-20, 25-22).
The Wildcats, who have lost five of their last six games before traveling to East Lansing, didn’t waste any time jumping out to a hot start. Before the game, MSU held its opponents to a .165 hitting percentage, but the Wildcats neglected the threat, as they hit .448 in the first set.
The Spartans bounced in the second set winning 25-19, but the Wildcats took the next two games to win the match riddled with miscommunication and errors on the Spartans’ end.
The sloppy play from the Spartans possibly stemmed from distractions off the court. The distractions were not specified, but sophomore libero Kori Moster said that they were a possible reason the Spartans were outplayed by the Wildcats.
The Spartan volleyball team huddles together before a set on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Jenison Field house. The Spartans fell in four sets to Northwestern. James Ristau/The State News
“There were some distractions tonight (off the court) that we let become distractions (on the court),” Moster said. “That’s a mental thing and also a maturity thing, and we need to come out here regardless of what’s going on in the rest of our lives and outside the court.”
The defense was led by junior middle blocker Alexis Mathews, who recorded four blocks, and Moster, who had 17 digs in the match.
The Spartans didn’t have much time to think about the loss, as they were faced with a tough Illinois opponent the next night.
The No. 22 Fighting Illini (9-9, 3-5) saw themselves in a hole early on, as the Spartans took the first two sets in convincing fashion, but Illinois stepped up to steal the match in five sets (25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 16-25, 8-15).
The Spartans came out with high energy from the players and more than 2,000 fans that showed up to Jenison, but unforced errors and the tenacity of the Illini plagued the green and white in the end, according to head coach Cathy George.
“We just committed too many errors and we started playing more repetitive when we should have been playing more aggressively,” George said.
The Spartan offense was once again led by Wicinski’s 22 kills and two service aces, and she also was a defensive force, grabbing a team-high 18 digs on the night.
Despite back-to-back heartbreaking losses, Wicinski believes that the Spartans will rally and prepare for a tough game against their rival, Michigan (16-6, 4-4). The Spartans hit the road as they face the Wolverines at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Ann Arbor.
“We don’t have time to sulk, we have to come back ready to go on Monday with an aggressive attitude, and that is something we have been lacking,” Wicinski said.