Evanston, Ill. - Twenty-four hours after the MSU volleyball team suffered its first loss of the season, it had a shot at redemption.
But the Spartans (7-2, 0-2 Big Ten) failed to close the weekend with a win as the Northwestern Wildcats swept them 3-0 at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday.
MSU couldnt overcome a balanced Northwestern outing, Spartan head coach Chuck Erbe said, and lost 24-30, 30-32, 20-30.
Their setting was solid, their outside hitters were solid, their middles were solid,he said.
But it wasnt just balance that allowed them to dominate. The Wildcats (5-3, 2-0) also benefited from 17 MSU service errors, many which cut short Spartan offensive spurts.
Three of the first four Northwestern points in game one came off of MSU service errors.
Were not serving well, and you cant make 17 serving errors and win,Erbe said.
Right away, those service woes began a night of mentally scattered Spartan effort.
After tying the score at 13, the Wildcats started making small runs that stretched the game out of reach.
And when five of the next six points went to the Wildcats side of the scoreboard, MSU couldnt bounce back.
I think when we get down and make one mistake after another, there is a surge of desperation on our team,sophomore setter Nikki Colson said.
In game two, that desperation soon turned to exasperation as the Spartans dramatically fought back from an early Wildcat lead, only to commit two more service errors in the games final seven points.
Colson blamed the recent serving troubles on a lack of concentration.
I think that its such a simple aspect of volleyball, that we overlook it,she said.Its just not mentally tough.\"
And when the third game opened with six straight Wildcat points, MSUs hope finally dwindled.
The Spartans fought back to trail by three at 12-9, but the Wildcats responded by winning six of the next nine points.
The Spartans losing weekend ended on a kill from Northwestern middle blocker Erika Lange.
Lange led all hitters with 11 kills. The Spartans got 10 kills each from sophomore middle blocker Jenny Rood and senior outside hitter Erin Hartley.
Colson recorded 31 assists to lead all players and also added a team-high eight digs.
Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan said the Wildcats execution of three aspects of the game was crucial.
We talk about the big three all the time - passing, blocking, and serving,he said.We go as we block and as we pass, and tonight we served well and we blocked and passed well.
The Wildcats were also very consistent and focused - two things the Spartans lacked, Erbe said.
We have all the physical ability, and we have individual technical skills,he said.However, we need to be tougher mentally.\"