In its third straight match against a top-10 opponent, Michigan State volleyball (15-10, 3-9 Big Ten)came out with intensity once again Saturday night at Jenison Fieldhouse, only to get swept three sets to none for the fifth consecutive game at the hands of 7th-ranked Wisconsin. (16-4, 9-3).
MSU was in familiar territory at the start, taking an early 4-0 first set lead. The run featured senior outside hitter Maddie Haggerty putting the Spartans on the board with a kill and freshman setter Elena Shklyar recording a service ace. Wisconsin was able to break through with their first point coming off a Shklyar service error.
After MSU led 8-7, the first set belonged to Wisconsin the rest of the way, as the Badgers controlled the momentum from that point on en route to a 25-14 set victory. The Spartans hit 2.7% in the first set, while Wisconsin posted a 34.6 percentage.
In the second set, Wisconsin led for most of the way. Taking the early lead, the Badgers only allowed the Spartans to get ahead once. With the set tied at 15, Wisconsin middle blocker Dana Rettke earned a kill that would give her team a lead it wouldn't relinquish the remainder of the set. The Spartans would stay within two for a majority of the final ten points, but the Badgers’ relentless attack, and 42.3% hitting percentage in the set doomed the Spartans.
“You saw the defensive effort by Wisconsin. They did a nice job. They never really gave up on a play,” coach Cathy George said. “Those were changing moments. Every time we got close, they’d score a couple points and it would push us down. That’s what great teams do and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”
The final set showcased back-and-forth efforts by both sides with a match-high five lead changes. MSU was unable to get out in front early on, as Haggerty’s attack error gave Wisconsin an early 2-1 lead. The turning point of the set came after a tie at 4 points, when Wisconsin outside hitter Grace Loberg’s kill gave the Badgers the lead.
The Spartans would lead only twice the rest of the way, never separating by more than one point. The set would remain competitive, though, as Wisconsin never led by more than three. The Badgers would take the set 25-23.
“In the end, we have nothing to lose,” freshman middle blocker Rebecka Poljan said. “I think we did a good job taking them to close games and showing them what we got.”
The Spartans travel to Purdue Wednesday to play in their fourth consecutive matchup against a ranked opponent.
“We’re so close and we’re just going to tip over,” Poljan said. “At some point, we’re going to learn, and we’re going to come out and win those games when we’re not supposed to.”