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Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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Michigan State earns ranked win over No. 14 Penn State, 3-2

MSU+junior+outside+hitter+Aliyah+Moore+rises+to+hit+the+ball+over+the+Wisconsin+defense+on+Friday%2C+October+27%2C+2023+at+the+Breslin+Center.
Jack Moreland
MSU junior outside hitter Aliyah Moore rises to hit the ball over the Wisconsin defense on Friday, October 27, 2023 at the Breslin Center.

EAST LANSING – Coming off a home loss to No. 4 Wisconsin, Michigan State had another ranked opponent on the docket with No. 14 Penn State coming to town. While the Nittany Lions looked solid throughout the match, the Spartans were able to lock in and secure a 3-2 victory. 

The first set demonstrated that both squads were ready for a showdown, as the contest remained tight throughout. Both teams played even and sharp volleyball throughout the set, they even had the same amount of attacking errors at six a piece. Eventually though, Michigan State found a way to chip away at the Penn State defense in consecutive instances. After the Nittany Lions came out of a late timeout to make it a 20-19 score, the Spartans turned up the heat and went on a 5-0. This sequence was highlighted by an incredible kill in the corner by sophomore middle blocker Evie Doezema, who finished the match with eight kills. The first set was sealed after a Penn State attacking error, and Michigan State won it, 25-19.

Penn State did not back down in the second set though, as the Nittany Lions set the tone immediately with a 7-0 start. They never let up on the gas either, as the Penn State attack fronted by senior outside hitter Jess Mruzik dominated. Mruzik was responsible for 22  points and grad student setter Mac Podraza made an impact with 37 assists. The Spartans also made their fair share of mistakes, as they made nine attacking errors en route to a second set loss at 25-11. 

Going into the third set, Penn State was looking to keep the momentum rolling. While Michigan State made it more interesting in the beginning, the Nittany Lions never truly slowed down. While Penn State kept playing with fire, Michigan State was limited to only five kills as PSU secured the third set at 25-16. 

“We just played so poorly in sets two and three,” Michigan State head coach Leah Johnson said. “Like we can’t keep playing that bad, that’s not our norm that was below norm.”

Penn State had victory on their minds entering the fourth set, but Michigan State had other plans. The Spartans jumped out to an early lead and stiff-armed any PSU comeback attempts throughout the set. Whenever the Nittany Lions threw a punch, MSU came right back in order to keep a steady lead. It also helped that the Spartans played mistake free, as they only had two attacking errors in the set. The contest was punctuated by a nasty kill delivered by junior outside hitter Aliyah Moore. She ended with nine kills and Michigan State got it done with a score of 25-18. 

“Eventually we actually surpassed our norm,” said Johnson. “That’s the level we’ve been training to get to, so I was really glad with our response.”

Entering the fifth set in a do or die situation, Michigan State needed everybody to focus in and step up. That’s exactly what happened as a variety of Spartans made a number of clutch plays. Whether it was freshman outside hitter Karolina Staniszweska with big slams or sophomore middle blocker Nil Okur with monster kills, it seemed like everyone got involved somehow. While Penn State was never out of it and took a lead down the stretch, Michigan State found a way to the comeback match win and a 18-16 set victory.

“Everyone is so selfless on our team,” said Johnson. “When they think about having a great middle performance they think about it as a position not a person.”

Michigan State improves to a 6-6 conference record and 14-9 overall. Penn State on the other hand drops to 15-6 overall and stands at 9-3 in conference. 

The Spartans will stay at home for their next matchup against the Maryland Terrapins on friday, Nov. 3, with gametime slated for 7:00 p.m. E.T. 

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About the Contributor
Jack Moreland
Jack Moreland, Sports Photo Editor
Jack (he/him) is a Journalism major focusing in sports reporting and media photography. Growing up in nearby Okemos, Michigan, he has been a lifelong Spartan and is proud to sport the green and white. Jack is a big Baby Keem fan and is known to post on your block with your wishlist on you.

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