MSU volleyball no match for Gophers in 3-0 loss

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By Ian Drummond

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State volleyball team was back home at Jenison Field House after a four-game road stand. But having a friendly crowd didn’t help the Spartans, as they were swept 3-0 for their fourth straight loss against No. 3 Minnesota. The Golden Gophers showed why they lead the Big Ten standings, dominating the stat lines and recording their twelfth straight win.

The Spartans came out swinging, taking four of the first six points, led by Maddy Haggerty’s opening kill and ace. MSU maintained the lead with the teams trading points until Minnesota tied the game at 8-8 and took the lead immediately after. After MSU tied it again at 10-10, the Gophers went on a 4-0 run with strong hits from Alexis Hart and Taylor Morgan, helped by Spartans’ errors. The Spartans rallied back to 17-17 with multiple kills from freshmen Naya Gros and Molly Johnson, including a dramatic long volley that ended with a kill from Alyssa Chronowski to tie the set at 15.

From there, neither team had the advantage, battling until Haggerty unleashed a strike that gave the Spartans the lead at 19-18 and forced the Gophers to take a timeout. Unfortunately for MSU, Minnesota got the momentum back after the timeout off of costly Spartan errors and won the first set, 25-22. MSU hit for only .200 on 40 attempts, with Naya Gros’ five kills leading the Spartans.

“We have all the skills,” said sophomore Rebecka Poljan. “We can get them on their toes. There’s no doubt about that, and we saw that in game one, we were right there with them.”

The Spartans set themselves up even better in the second set, going on a 4-0 run to open the scoring. Minnesota committed three straight errors in the first four points, which forced them to take an early timeout. Haggerty was all over the place again in this set, recording two kills and a huge block early on in the middle of another 4-0 run that seemed to stun the Gophers. The Spartans maintained a wide lead for much of the match – every time Minnesota looked like they had momentum, they lost it through their own errors or through MSU’s punishing kills.

That did not change until the Spartans were up 17-12, at which point Stephanie Samedy caught fire for Minnesota. Four of her nine kills in the set came in the next six points during a furious rally to tie the set at 20, at which point the Spartans took a timeout. Minnesota kept the lead for the rest of the set, with Samedy picking up the last two kills to seal it at 25-23.

“I think it’s great that we put some pressure on them,” said MSU head coach Cathy George, “but we want to win those games. We’re looking to close them out.”

Though the Spartans looked like the better team at times in the first two sets, the third set was dominated by Minnesota from start to finish. Though the Spartans had a narrow early lead after a great hit from Gros, that was the only lead they would see. Shortly after that, Regan Pittman got three kills in a row for the Gophers to take the lead. Though MSU tied it again at 8-8, Samantha Seliger-Swenson recorded a block and ace right after to give the lead back to Minnesota.

There was no answer for the brutal Minnesota offense, which racked up kill after kill as the Gophers cruised to a 25-15 win to complete the shutout. Errors doomed the Spartans here, with 13 total in this set, though the .091 hitting percentage on 33 attempts didn’t help either.  

Up next for the Spartans is No. 7 Wisconsin, who comes to Jenison at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“We gotta get ready for Wisconsin tomorrow,” said George,  “We gotta take what we can from this and move on to the next day.”