Thursday, December 2, 2021

MSU Volleyball suffers loss to Rutgers in five sets

April 3, 2021
Freshman setter Celia Cullen (2) serves the ball during the game against Rutgers on April 2, 2021, at the Jenison Fieldhouse. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Spartans 3-2.
Freshman setter Celia Cullen (2) serves the ball during the game against Rutgers on April 2, 2021, at the Jenison Fieldhouse. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Spartans 3-2. —
Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

MSU started off their weekend with an absolute thriller of a match. Looking for their first home win of the season, MSU would fall just short as they lost 3-2. 

The match started with a first set that couldn’t get any closer. Throughout the set, the teams traded points, going back-and-forth going on scoring runs, showing how evenly matched they were and how competitive this entire match would be.

Rutgers would take an early 13-10 lead. As MSU made an effort to come back, they would make a 4-0 run to take the lead 19-18 late in the set. Despite the fight MSU displayed, a few untimely and costly errors would cost them the set as the Scarlet Knights would win the opening set 25-23. 

Despite the loss in the first set, MSU played very well offensively. Alyssa Chronowski would finish the set with seven kills to start an extraordinary day for her, and the Spartans as a whole would finish the set ahead of Rutgers with 15 kills. 

The downfall of the Spartans in the set was their efficiency as they had a hitting percentage of .194 to go along with eight attack errors. The Spartans also just seemed to have trouble getting clean returns on Rutgers attacks, forcing them to not get good attacks off themselves.

MSU would follow a decent first set with an even stronger second set, this time winning the set 25-18. 

Cecilee Max-Brown would see her first action of the day as she checked in early in the set and scored a powerful kill, giving the Spartans an 8-6 lead. Rutgers would soon go on a 6-0 run to put them up 14-10. 

As they did all day, the Spartans fought back to reclaim the lead at 17-15, and from there on out, they took the second set to tie the score of the match at one set each. 

The energy of the Spartans was visible. You could see in their celebrations and the volume of their bench that showed they desperately wanted to end their season off with two wins at home. 

Chronowski would rack up the kills, reaching 11 so far, while MSU picked up the pace on defense in the second set, reaching three blocks and 24 digs on the day.

The third set would be another nail-biter. Despite a slow start in the set by MSU, who started off with three straight attack errors, the Spartans would overcome to win the set 25-23. 

Rutgers seemed to be reading MSU’s attacks early, frustrating Chronowski this set as the Scarlet Knights scored on several blocks to pull ahead 15-11. 

As MSU once again prepared to fight back, they gained momentum after they won a challenge that overturned a call that negated a kill by Naya Gros. 

MSU would take advantage to put them up two sets to one. MSU continued to apply pressure offensively, reaching 41 kills on the day, as well as taking advantage of the ten service errors Rutgers had up to this point. 

The Spartans went into the fourth set hungry for a win, but Rutgers did not go away quietly. Rutgers would keep their hopes alive and force a fifth set as they won 25-22. 

Early in the set, Lauren Swartz would notch back-to-back kills to put the Spartans up 11-10, but just like it was all day the teams stayed neck-and-neck the entire set. 

With no clear advantage to either team, one error or slip-up could cost them the set. Rutgers would go on a small run at the end of the set giving them just enough cushion to keep MSU out of striking distance.

The marathon would continue in a fifth and final set. Every time one team scored, the other had an answer. 

As Rutgers got their 13th service ace on the day, the Spartans called a timeout down 13-11 to regroup and make one final run to win the match. 

Service aces for Rutgers, 14 on the day, really hurt MSU.

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“It’s been a constant for the last three years that they’ve been doing a lot of damage at the serving line and today was no different,” said head coach Cathy George. “Thats a credit to them and not so much of a 'we're horrible at that.'”

With the game on the line a big block by Swartz, followed by a service ace for Talia Edmonds would tie the game at 13 and force Rutgers to call a timeout of their own. Two points away from victory, it was still anyone’s game.

Two consecutive points at the end of the game would give Rutgers the edge they needed to win the set 16-14, and the match 3-2. 

MSU played their hearts out, and despite the results, the effort was there. They unfortunately had more untimely mistakes that decided their fate. 

“I love the way we fought. It did, unfortunately, end the way we didn’t want it to go but it was within two points,” said Chronowski.

It will be a tall task for the Spartans to turn around another hard-fought performance tomorrow after such a long match, but this team has shown all season that resilience is a key to their game plan every game. 

“Your mind goes before your body goes … and as long as our minds continue to stay strong and know that this is the last one for some of us, and just play with heart, I believe we will be able to overcome the five sets that we played,” said Chronowski.

MSU heads into their final regular-season game tomorrow, looking to avenge the close loss today as they also look to send their seniors off with a win on senior night.

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