Michigan State volleyball (12-4, 0-3 in Big Ten) brought enthusiasm in the third set Friday night at Jenison Field House, but ultimately were unable to fend off a rampant Penn State squad (10-3, 2-1). The Spartans fell in straight sets, 25-11, 25-16, 26-24. Sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski paced the Spartans with 10 kills, but it wasn’t enough in what was the third straight loss for the team.
“I feel like we were ready to come out. I think right away in (set) one and two we got down right away several points, and it kind of took us a while for us to get back in our rhythm,” coach Cathy George said. “They serve very well, we struggled a little bit. We weren’t getting our offense flowing, and we became a little predictable early.”
An early 7-0 run pushed the Nittany Lions to a 12-3 lead in the first set, one they would not relinquish on their way to a 25-11 set win. The Spartans did not help themselves by committing 10 total errors in the set.
“I was really fired up for this one. I wanted to be part of history. We've never beaten Penn State here, and I wanted that to happen,” Chronowski said. “I thought this was a good opportunity to do that, but we did look a little shaken at the beginning.”
A 5-0 Spartan run late in the second set closed the gap to 19-15, but a service error by redshirt senior Maddie Haggerty ended the momentum, and the Nittany Lions eventually won the set by a score of 25-16. Chronowski led the Spartans with four kills, but the team as a whole hit only .032 on the set.
“A big part for us was service (reception) tonight,” sophomore libero Jamye Cox said. “We didn’t pass anywhere near what we wanted to tonight, and that’s partially because we went back to our safe zone of ‘Ok, we want the person next to us to take that’ and that made us all a step late to the ball, communication was a huge part that we didn’t have tonight.”
The third set was by far the most competitive, as the Spartans took their first leads of the entire match, and pushed it into extra points. Chronowski and redshirt senior outside hitter Maddie Haggerty paced the Spartans with four kills each, and the Spartans showed more fight and energy than they had previously en route to a 26-24 loss.
“We played free in the last (set). That’s what Michigan State has to offer, but we can’t offer it in the third set,” Chronowski said. “We took too many punches, then we were just beating ourselves up more. If we battle the first two sets and give them our best Michigan State volleyball, then I think it would’ve been different. The third set can’t be where it starts.”
The Spartans return to action at Jenison Field House Saturday night at 7 p.m. against Rutgers.