Saturday, July 24, 2021

No. 1 Wisconsin defeats Spartan volleyball on Saturday, Sunday

February 22, 2021

Saturday's match

After facing off against their in-state rival earlier this week, the Michigan State Spartans hosted the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers at Jenison Field House for the first of two days this weekend.

Wisconsin, which is one of the best programs in the country, shined and MSU again struggled.

MSU started off strong right out of the gate, but the Badgers eventually carried the lead. The Spartans finally broke the Wisconsin lead halfway through the set, tying it up at 13-13. Barely trailing behind the Badgers the whole first set, Wisconsin eventually widened the gap and took the first set, 25-20. 

Naya Gros led for the Spartans with eight kills and a .538 hitting percentage, while Rebecka Poljan trailed right behind her with five kills. The Spartans’ overall hitting percentage stayed at a .143, while the Badgers led with .297. 

Gros feels that every game is an opportunity to play better, learn more and most importantly, win. 

“To be against the number one team in the country is for me, it's not intimidating," Gros said. "It’s more of like a drive and a challenge … when you play against the best, you can be the best."

The Badgers started off the second set strong, eventually taking a 12-4 advantage on a 6-1 run with a .750 hitting percentage. As the Spartans couldn’t find their groove for the second set, the Badgers’ lead continued to grow further. Wisconsin took the second set with 14 kills and a hitting percentage of .650 while the Spartans trailed with seven kills and a .091 hitting percentage, final set score 25-9. 

With a 2-0 match lead, the Badgers consistently held the advantage over the Spartans for the third set. MSU fell off with only eight kills while Wisconsin led with a .333 hitting percentage and eight kills.

The Badgers ended the day with a final score of 25-13, taking all three sets. 

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“Serving errors, different types of errors that we committed, those are points on their side and we cannot continue to give them points," George said in a post-match interview. "They’re good enough to earn their own. We’ll let them do that tomorrow."

The Spartans were not able to find their momentum today against the top-ranked Wisconsin Badgers. Tomorrow they will face off again in the last match of the series, at 3:30 p.m. at Jenison Field House. 

“And it’s going to take a lot of fight and a lot of determination to get a win against them,” Gros said on getting a win against Wisconsin tomorrow.

Sunday's match

The Spartans had another tough outing Sunday, dropping the second match against top-ranked Wisconsin, 3-1.

Wisconsin dominated MSU in the first set winning 25-10 behind massive offensive struggles from MSU.

MSU only had five kills in the set. Sophomore Cecilee Max-Brown was the lone bright spot with three of the Spartans' five kills in the set.

MSU’s offensive struggles carried over into the second set as Wisconsin once again won, this time by a score of 25-16.

The Spartans once again dipped into the negatives in their hitting percentage, but they couldn’t seem to get the ball on the floor as Wisconsin showed why they are the No.1 team in the nation, following up a four-block first set with a six-block second set.

With their backs against the wall, MSU stood strong and fought back in the third set, winning 25-21 to avoid the sweep.

MSU’s offense created the spark that they desperately needed earlier in the match. Max-Brown kept her strong day going as she reached 12 kills on the day. Veterans redshirt senior Lauren Swartz reached six kills and senior Alyssa Chronowski reached five kills.

MSU also temporarily fixed their serving problems as they notched four service aces in the set, as well as showing some fight on defense with four blocks.

Max-Brown said in the huddle the Spartans just focused on playing with nothing to lose and with their all against the top-ranked Badgers.

The fourth set was the most competitive set of the day as the Spartans looked to keep their upset hopes alive once more.

The set was tight, reaching a score of 20-20. Both teams were flying around the court, diving and making one-armed saves to keep plays alive.

Wisconsin would ultimately win the set, 25-22, finishing off MSU’s hope for a comeback.

MSU’s impressive four service aces in the set weren’t enough to overcome Wisconsin’s 17 kills in the final set.

After a stretch of tough games, MSU knows that facing a top-level team can only help them improve. 

“Playing high-ranked teams gives us a better chance at getting better in the future,” Max-Brown said.

Even though MSU took one set away from the Badgers and kept up with them competitively the last few sets, they are ready to pivot and take these losses as lessons. 

“Yes, we took one set off of the No. 1 seed in the country, but we’re not satisfied with that,” Gros said. “... We do have the ability, and we do have the talent to hang with the big dogs.”

MSU continues their homestand as they host Illinois on Feb. 27 and 28.

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