Spartans snap losing streak, beat Buckeyes

By Ian Drummond

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State volleyball finally snapped its seven-game losing streak at home on Wednesday, topping Ohio State in four sets, 25-18, 24-26, 25-19, 25-10. The Spartans were led by a commanding all-around performance from senior captain Maddie Haggerty, who recorded a double-double with 18 kills on offense as well as 11 digs on defense.

“It was just fun tonight,” said Haggerty. You get that confidence…even though we lost a few, we bounce right back.”

The first set started strong for MSU. They scored the first three points, helped out by two receiving errors by Buckeye libero Hannah Gruensfelder, which forced an early timeout from Ohio State. After the timeout, the errors continued for the Buckeyes, who committed 15 in this set to the Spartans’ 10. These allowed MSU to take a 12-7 lead despite the offense only notching four kills, and forced another timeout by Ohio State.

Though OSU took the first two points after the timeout, they continued to dig themselves into a hole with errors, which kept them from challenging MSU for the rest of the set, which the Spartans took 25-18 when Haggerty caused Bukilic to make an error on set point.

That momentum kept going into the second set, where two kills from Haggerty and two blocks from Alyssa Chronowski put MSU up 8-3 early. Then Buckeye junior Bia Franklin gave the Buckeyes life, scoring four points by herself as Ohio State roared back to tie at nine and force a Michigan State timeout. From there, the teams kept it close as every error and kill was balanced out by another, primarily from Haggerty and Bukilic. Bukilic found an extra gear as the set went on, placing hit after hit out of the reach of Spartan defenders.

The Buckeyes got their first lead of the match after MSU’s Jamye Cox misplayed Bukilic’s serve, which they maintained even as Haggerty rallied the Spartans back to a tie at 21-all with a strike that bounced off multiple Buckeye defenders. MSU came close, but Bukilic scored two kills in a row to give Ohio State a narrow 26-24 victory. Bukilis scored half of her team-leading 17 kills in this set, and both teams hit .250.

“It was important to slow [Bukilic] down a little,” said head coach Cathy George, who pointed out that despite hitting .600 in the second set Bukilic only hit .222 over the whole game. “She’s a great player, and she’s a freshman so we’re going to see her around for a while.”

The teams were in opposite positions from the start of the second set – Ohio State with the hot hands and MSU struggling to put points on the board. Balls that the Buckeyes would have misplayed out of bounds in the first set were suddenly getting returned and scored. MSU was committing errors left and right, and found themselves in an 8-3 hole early in the third set.

Once again, Haggerty came through with kills to keep the Spartans in it, and Rebecka Poljan got the crowd back in the game with a big solo block to cut Ohio State’s lead to 11-8. Naya Gros got another soon after to make it a one-point game. The set continued this way until Poljan and Molly Johnson combined for a block to give the Spartans the lead, and Poljan spiked another one into the wood to make it permanent. Chronowski scored four of the last seven points to keep the lead going as MSU took set three 25-19.

“That’s discipline,” said Poljan. “Sticking together, that’s what gets us through these moments.”

There was no question that the team stuck together in the fourth set. Haggerty continued to frustrate Ohio State’s defense, getting the first two kills of the set as MSU took four of the first five. The Buckeyes looked like they could take over as Bukilic found her footing again and an error by Johnson cut the MSU lead to 7-5. From there, MSU was lights out, beginning with an 11-0 run right after that error. The Buckeyes had no answer for the Spartans’ attack and gifted them free points off of several attack errors during the run, which destroyed any momentum Ohio State had. MSU had lots of space to close out the set, and Johnson’s spike completed the 25-10 rout.

“It’s just awesome to go on those big runs,” said Poljan. “It’s like you have the wind at your fingertips.”

The second game of the Spartans’ home series is against Iowa at 7 p.m. Saturday.