The No. 20 MSU volleyball team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament Friday, falling to Big Ten rival No. 2 Penn State in four sets, (25-22, 17-25, 17-25, 22-25), in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
The elimination marks the second-straight Sweet 16 exit for the Spartans (23-12 overall, 10-10 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions (31-2 overall, 19-1 Big Ten) advance to the Elite Eight for the fifth game in six years.
Freshman middle blocker Allyssah Fitterer, who has been steady for the Spartans all season, saved her best scoring performance of the season with a career-high 18 kills on 34 swings, also a career-high. Senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski posted a double double with 16 kills and 11 digs, and freshman Chloe Reinig had 10 kills and two blocks.
The setters, senior Kristen Kelsay and sophomore Halle Peterson, had 23 assists each.
MSU started the match focused, tying the game at 7 after trailing 6-2. After falling behind 13-11, the Spartans tied it again at 13.
The Lions continued to build two-point leads, leading 20-18 late in the set. Wicinski and Reinig scored kills out of a timeout to tie the game, and the Spartans outscored MSU 5-2 down the stretch to win the first set, 25-22.
MSU opened the second set 4-1, but the Lions roared back with a 4-0 run to take the lead. Penn State soon took a 12-8 lead, leading to an MSU timeout.
MSU trimmed the lead to 18-15, but the Lions put the game out of reach with a 5-0 run. Penn State went on to take the second straight, 25-17.
The Lions continued the aggressive play, taking an early 9-4 lead in set three that continued to grow. Penn State expanded the lead to 12-6 before the Spartans went on a 3-1 run to cut the margin to 13-9.
Penn State responded with yet another run, outscoring MSU 4-1 to take a 17-10 lead. MSU tried to keep the margin respectable, trimming the score back to 18-13. But Pen State couldn’t be stopped, taking a 21-13 lead.
MSU couldn’t get back into the game, and Penn State took set three, 25-17.
The Lions completed the win by winning its third-straight set in set four, 25-22. Penn State took a 10-4 lead early on, only for MSU to trim the score to 10-9.
Penn State managed a 22-19 lead after several lead swaps, leading to an MSU timeout. After a couple more swapped points, Penn State took match point at 24-20. Fitterer had three-straight kills to cut the lead to one, 24-23, but the Lions scored to seal a ticket to the next round.
The elimination ends a successful season for MSU that saw major contributions from the senior class of Wicinski, Kelsay, middle blocker Alexis Mathews and middle blocker Kelsey Kuipers. Young players also rose to the occasion, as Fitterer and Reining became key cogs.