In the two games following its first weekend sweep of the Big Ten season, the MSU volleyball team was swept in its final weeklong stand, losing to No. 22 Michigan and No. 9 Penn State during the course of four days.
At Michigan on Wednesday, the Spartans (21-11 overall, 10-10 Big Ten) took the opening set, but ultimately fell 3-1 to their in-state rivals. However, the Spartans retained the State Pride Series title and flag because they outscored the Wolverines in their two matchups this season by a score of 181-179.
The loss was a setback for the Spartans, who were hoping to possibly secure a home court match for the first two rounds of the tournament and finish with a conference record above .500 for the first time since 2003.
However, the Spartans were unable to pull off the upset, losing in four sets to the defending national champions on MSU’s senior night.
The first set defined the match, as MSU nearly came away with the set victory, but were shut down on two match points, allowing the Nittany Lions to come away with a 27-25 victory.
“We just got a little flat there,” head coach Cathy George said. “We gave a lot of energy and emotion and went after them. But you have to keep the pedal on the metal, and that’s what we can take from it.”
In set two, the Spartans won handily, beating down Penn State 25-16 and evening the match. In that set, MSU posted a .310 hitting percentage, led by senior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje, who had five kills.
But it was all downhill from there, as the Spartans fell 16-25 and 15-25 in sets three and four.
“It’s almost like we got a little comfortable and we stopped being the aggressors,” Rathje said. “Everything kind of plays into each other, and when we weren’t passing well, we can’t take as many aggressive swings, and we started playing a little tentative, which led to more errors. And we’re not going to win matches like that, which we clearly saw.”
Rathje finished with a game-high of 17 kills, bringing her within 13 to top 500 kills on the season.
Despite the loss, the Spartans left Jenison with their heads high, having pieced together one of the best seasons in recent history behind the talent of their five seniors, who were honored after the game. And although the season is not over, with the Spartans playing Arizona in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Austin, Texas, Saturday was a difficult night for the seniors.
“(It’s) very emotional,” senior defensive specialist Carli Weiler said. “I’m sad it’s over.”
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