Spartans can’t get offense going in season-ending loss

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Lia Sinisi/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Ian Drummond, Volleyball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING – Michigan State came into this game with a mission. Though they surpassed last year’s win total, they came into the game 0-7 in conference play and finished outside of Big Ten Tournament contention. With their final game against No. 22 Ohio State Saturday afternoon, the Spartans had one more shot to get in the win column.

The Spartans have struggled to create offense this season. Those struggles continued Saturday as their season ended not with a bang, but a whimper in a 3-0 shutout loss. 

The Spartans did not record a shot on goal until the third quarter as the Buckeyes were adept at shutting down MSU’s attack. They were outshot decisively 16-9 and only had three corners to OSU’s five. 

The Spartans showed up early, driving deep into Buckeye territory. After a series where they applied pressure in the back of the field, they earned a short corner that led to a good shot, but it was stopped.

The momentum didn’t last long, as Ohio State drove the length of the field and Emma Goldean centered for Sarah Charley, who tipped it in to give the Buckeyes the early lead.

Both teams played uptempo after the goal. The Spartans earned most of the chances in front of the goal, but couldn’t convert on any several loose balls in front of the goal. The Buckeyes had a good chance of their own at the end of the first, but the MSU defense held strong despite three shots in a row inside of the circle.

Clouds rolled in near the end of the first quarter. Although the link between rain and good play for MSU athletics is well known, here it represented the point where the Buckeyes took over the game.

As the second quarter started and the rain poured down, Ohio State took over. After a costly foul inside the 25, Mackenzie Allessie took a quick touch inside the circle and found the area just right of MSU keeper Jade Arundell. 

Neither team could accomplish anything for the rest of the second. Charley stood out for Ohio State, outrunning the MSU defense throughout the quarter. Arundell had to be alert or else she would have probably scored three by halftime. At the half, she was the only player with multiple shots on goal.

At halftime, the rain cleared up. The sun came out and shone majestically through the clouds. Yet, the Buckeyes opened the third looking even more dominant. The Spartans did get their first shot on goal early. 

Ohio State responded with six minutes of sustained pressure in the MSU zone. OSU drew a corner that Whitney Harris put past Arundell to give the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead. 

The play that best represented the Spartans’ luck came late in the third. With MSU still down 3-0, a long pass finally got through to Osinga, who slipped past most of the OSU defense. But the ball bounced off her stick, where OSU’s Delaney Lawler chased it down and sent it back the other way. 

The fourth was uneventful. Once again, the Spartans got several nice chances that fell just wide. The Buckeyes pushed the tempo and got inside the circle, but this time both teams were shutout in the quarter.

It was the final game for the team’s two seniors, Kelsey Keener and Makenzie Brown. 

“It was really bittersweet,” said Keener. “This summer, we came early and worked on our team culture…I think that was our main focus.”

Head coach Helen Knull agreed with Keener. 

“[Makenzie] and Keener, they’re two players that have put their heart and soul into the program…I’m proud of them for the culture they’ve managed to set here,” Knull said.

The Spartans finish the season 7-11 and 0-8 in conference play.