MSU struggled once again as they lost their second match against Penn State on Saturday night in a 3-0 sweep.
The Spartans started out the night slow. Penn State came out in the first set and set the tone with aggressive and high-flying play. All the hard-hit balls that came at MSU had them reeling and on their heels. MSU seemed not to be attacking but just trying to prevent Penn State from scoring.
The Spartans finished the set with 16 digs, showing promise defensively, but they weren’t able to get into an attacking flow as they lost the set 25-13.
While the offense was slow for MSU, Meredith Norris stepped up and did what she could as she had four kills in the first set, while Alyssa Chronowski and Cecilee Max-Brown, two of MSU’s best attacking threats, were held without kills in the set.
MSU seemed to wake up and played better in the second set, but still lost, this time 25-21.
MSU no doubt is still struggling to get their chemistry and rhythm back after not practicing together for almost a month. As the score was 11-7 in favor of the Nittany Lions, three MSU players set up an attack. But as the ball came down from a bump, the Spartans stared at each other and failed to even get a spike off as the ball hit the net.
“When we lost our energy and we’re tired and fatigued, that's when it fell apart a little bit, and that’s when it needs to be the strongest,” senior Jamye Cox said.
MSU would still keep pace with Penn State. Max-Brown also began to elevate her play as she got up to four kills after the end of the set, but one of MSU’s biggest pitfalls cost them. With the Nittany Lions with set-point, the Spartans sent the ball into the net on a serve, losing them the set.
Service errors have hurt the Spartans all year. They finished the day with 13 service errors. If MSU wants to get any rhythm going they know they have to clean up their serves.
“At the end of the day we had almost 15 service errors in a big game," Head Coach Cathy George said. "We can’t spot somebody like Penn State five points on serving alone. ... We have to make sure we are more solid in that area, and it’s something we can control, so we need to do a better job of that.”
A demoralizing loss in the second set, unable to avoid the sweep, definitely affected the Spartans going into the third. As MSU once again looked to avoid being swept, they were unable to do so. They lost the third set, 25-11.
This set looked more like the first than the second set as Penn State dominated again.
Even with solid games from Molly Johnson, who had seven kills, and solid second and third sets from Max-Brown who finished with five kills, the Spartans struggled offensively and finished with only 25 kills. It shows that offensively the Spartans are missing freshman star Sarah Franklin. She is still out with a hand injury.
The Spartans look to bounce back as they head to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes on March 26-27.
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