They attacked, and they conquered.
The MSU volleyball team (12-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten), showed their resiliency in a thrilling five-game upset (25-23, 26-24, 19-25, 19-25, 15-9) over No. 1 Penn State Friday night in MSU’s Big Ten season opener.
The victory, already the biggest of the season, also is one of the biggest in MSU volleyball history. It marks the first victory against a No. 1 team for the program. It marks the end of a four-game losing streak in Big Ten openers. It also snapped an 18-game losing streak to the Nittany Lions dating back to 2001.
MSU flashed a strong preseason record, but couldn’t create separation from the rest of the Big Ten early on. This week, the Big Ten has eight teams in the top-25, making it the strongest conference in NCAA volleyball.
The first, and perhaps the biggest, domino has fallen in MSU’s bid to stand out amongst the rest of the conference.
Senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski had 21 kills and nine digs in the win. Senior setter Kristen Kelsay had a double-double with 27 assists and 11 digs, and junior outside hitter Taylor Galloway had a near double-double with 10 kills and nine digs.
Sophomore setter Halle Peterson and freshman outside hitter Chloe Reinig both had big games a week after returning to the rotation.
Peterson came an assist shy of tying her career-best with 26, and Reinig has 10 kills for the night — 10 of which came in the first two sets.
MSU started the match with a close set one victory (25-23). The Nittany Lions went toe-to-toe with the Spartans early as both teams crept to a 12-12 tie. Penn State began to pull away as they took a 17-14 lead, leading to an MSU timeout.
Penn State continued to push the lead, eventually leveling out at 20-15. MSU turned the tides with a 9-3 run, taking the lead at 24-13. A kill by freshman middle blocker Allyssah Fitterer ended the first set in MSU’s favor.
The second set was a continuation of the first, with both teams matching each other in effort. Penn State eventually pulled away almost took the second set with a 23-19 lead.
MSU responded with another rally — outscoring the Nittany Lions 7-1 to snatch the second set away.
Penn State conceded the first two sets to MSU, but they wouldn’t allow a sweep.
In set three, Penn State jumped to an early 6-2 lead, a lead they held onto for the remainder of the set. MSU couldn’t trim the margin lower than three as PSU went on to win set 3, 25-19.
The Spartans kept the score close early in set four, but once again, Penn State managed to pull away.
A five-point run pushed PSU’s lead to 18-11, and the points kept coming. MSU dropped the fourth set to Penn State, 25-19.
After two straight lost sets, the Spartans had their backs against the wall. 15 points from completing the upset, they managed to come through.
MSU came out with a strong 9-6 lead. Penn State answered with two straight points, but MSU hung tough, scoring five of the next six points to take a 14-9 kill in set five. With victory imminent, Mathews and Wicinski combined for a block to seal the win.
MSU will return to action on Sunday, when the team takes on No. 13 Ohio State at 2 p.m.