No. 17 Spartan Volleyball falls to No. 15 Wisconsin in four

Wisconsin (3):           22, 25, 25, 25
Michigan State (1):   25, 20, 21, 23

After splitting the past three weekends and falling one spot in the AVCA Top 25, Michigan State tried to increase their chances of getting a top 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament against No. 15 Wisconsin.

The Spartans opened up with a 5-1 lead as a timeout was quickly called by Coach Sheffield. Out of that timeout, a Taylor Galloway ace and two Wisconsin errors made the Badgers call another timeout, down 9-1. Down by six at 16-10, Wisconsin was able to capitalize on a Spartan attacking error. At 19-15 Lauren Wicinski stepped back to serve and gained two service aces, and forced two attacking errors by Wisconsin. Autumn Christenson used a block on the right side to bring it to set point at 24-17. But a service and attacking error by Wicinski gave the badgers two points. Wisconsin went on a 4-0 run to bring the score to 24-21 before coach George called an MSU timeout. Alexis Mathews was set up for a kill she wasn’t ready for giving Wisconsin a point, but Wicinski finished the first game off 25-22.

The second set was opened with a 2-0 Spartan lead but that quickly changed, as the Badgers went on a 8-1 rally to get coach George to gather her girls. Wicinski had a kill to gain her an ace to close the gap to 11-7. Wisconsin then increased the lead to five before Chloe Reinig gave the Spartans a kill. Allysah Fitterer then followed with a kill during a volley that appeared to be out of the reach of any Spartans. Fitterer saved it and Wicinski put it away closing Wisconsin’s lead to three at 16-13. MSU then called a timeout down 18-13 to keep their hopes alive. Three consecutive points for the Spartans gave Wisconsin the need to call a timeout up 19-13. Wisconsin extended their lead to five at 23-18, but MSU came back and scored two points before set point was gained for Wisconsin. And then the set was ended 25-20 due to MSU miscommunication, as the Spartans tallied 10 errors during that set.

After returning from their locker rooms, Wisconsin had a 13-9 lead before a service error cost the Badgers a point. Wisconsin came back from that with a kill and an ace before coach George called the girls to talk it out. An attacking error by Wisconsin and a Fitterer roof closed the Badgers lead to three. The Spartans closed the gap to two thanks to a Badger attacking error and a Galloway ace which brought coach Sheffield to call a timeout. Wisconsin had back-to-back points, but Mathews answered with a hard kill from the middle bringing the score to 21-18. Timeout was called on the floor by Wisconsin as Kelsey Kuipers brought the score to 22-20 with a kill. An attacking error by Galloway and a Wisconsin kill gave the Badgers set point, but Kuipers kept the Spartans in the game with a middle block. The set was then finished 25-21 off a bad block by the Spartans.

Both teams began strong in the fourth set, as neither team could get a lead of more than two before it was tied at five. Wisconsin gained a four point lead before coach George called an MSU timeout, down 10-6. Fitterer came out and gave the Spartans a kill, but Wisconsin retaliated before Wicinski gave MSU a kill. Wisconsin had two consecutive attacking errors that brought the score to 12-9. The Spartans tied it all up at 13 with a Kuipers kill and a Wisconsin attacking error. The Badgers then gained two points to which MSU then called a timeout. Down by two at 16-14, Mathews closed it to one with a kill. Tied at 17 a piece thanks to the blocking duo of Mathews and Fitterer, the Badgers called a timeout. The teams exchanged points and the lead until Wisconsin gained a two point lead at 22-20. With the game on the line for MSU, Wisconsin got back-to-back points to give them match point. But Reining and Galloway gave the Spartans two consecutive points and coach George to take a last-chance timeout. MSU brought it within one but it was won by Wisconsin, 25-23.

The Badgers won both games against the Spartans this year including this one, 3-1, after losing the first set. MSU led Wisconsin in hitting percentage in only the first set, which proved to be the only set the Spartans would take. Next up for Michigan State is No. 11 Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at Jenison Field House.


Jennifer Swanchara is the host of Bump, Set, Spike for Impact Sports.

Photo: Jennifer Swanchara