Despite a strong start, the No. 11 Purdue Boilermakers proved to be too much for the MSU volleyball team to handle Saturday evening as the Spartans fell, 3-1.
With the loss, the Spartans (17-7 overall, 6-6 Big Ten) split their week’s games for the sixth straight time this season. Head coach Cathy George said the loss was a setback for what the Spartans are trying to accomplish this season.
“When you look at what happened in the conference this week, anybody can gain an edge right now,” she said. “We really want to push ahead of the group that’s kind of logjammed. And we had an opportunity to do that tonight, but I don’t think we rose to the challenge.”
Senior outside hitters Kyndra Abron and Jenilee Rathje anchored the Spartan offense once again, combining for 33 kills on the night. Freshman libero Kori Moster helped the defensive effort with 21 digs, but the Boilermakers were able to find holes too often.
The Spartans dominated the Boilermakers from the start in set one. Despite a couple early communication errors, MSU was able to build a 14-8 lead, forcing Purdue to take its first timeout. Abron led the offensive effort with five kills as the Spartans accrued an impressive .615 attacking percentage in the set. Everything seemed to fall MSU’s way, and the Spartans took the first set 25-14.
The second set was a different story as the Boilermakers were able to hold off the Spartans for a 25-19 victory. Although MSU continued to play tough on offense, the Boilermakers scored too quick and too often for the Spartans to catch up, and just like that, the match was tied at one set apiece.
From then on, it was all Purdue as the Boilermakers won sets three and four by scores of 25-18 and 25-22. The match marked only the second time this season MSU has lost after winning the first set, the first coming against Ohio State earlier in the month. Typically the Spartans have thrived on momentum this season, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday.
“We just let Purdue’s hitters get on fire, and we didn’t adjust our defense,” Rathje said. “They just got on a roll, and we weren’t able to stop it.”
However, the Spartans fought hard at the end of sets three and four. Near the end of set four, MSU built a runs of three straight points, forcing the Boilermakers to call a timeout, clinging on to a 19-17 lead. Eventually Purdue was able to put the game away, but Abron said it showed the team’s ability to continue fighting until the end.
“We need to stay strong and fight the whole match through,” she said. “We can’t just step it up at the beginning of the match or at the end of sets.”
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