Penn State Women’s Volleyball Drops Heartbreaker to Michigan State

Story posted September 28, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Megan Murphy

Fifteenth-ranked Michigan State upset No. 1 Penn State at Rec Hall on Friday night in five sets.  The Spartans won the first two sets 25-23, 26-24 and the fifth deciding set 15-9.

The loss marked the first time since 2003 that the Nittany Lions lost to Michigan State, snapping an 18 game win streak.  It was the first Big Ten Conference match for both teams.

Penn State’s head coach Russ Rose offered nothing but high praise to the Spartans following the Michigan State victory.

 “The Big Ten is an incredibly tough conference and we’re not going to be the only team that loses,” said Rose. “They didn’t win the statistics war but they won the match because they fought hard and did a real nice job.”

The first set was a close one, as the teams almost went point for point with one another.  Penn State began to pull away after two errors by Michigan State that put them up 17-14.  Following a timeout by Michigan State, the Nittany Lions went up 20-15.  It looked like the first set was over, but Michigan State fought back. 

After a big block by the Spartans, the first set was tied at 23.  Michigan State took the lead 24-23 which caused Penn State to call a time out.  Following the timeout, middle blocker Allyssah Fitterer killed the ball to give Michigan State the first set.   Ariel Scott led Penn State with seven kills.

The second set looked better for the Nittany Lions as they were up 23-19 after Scott’s eleventh kill of the match.  But again, they couldn’t close out the set as Michigan State fought back again to tie it up at 23 after a net violation on PSU. 

The Nittany Lions went up 24-23 after a kill by Paulina Prieto Cerame, but again, Michigan State got a kill and tied the set at 24.  Deja McClendon hit the ball out of bounds to end the set and gave Michigan State a 2-0 advantage in the match.

“I thought we had a lot of opportunities to win the first and second game,” said Rose.  “Michigan State fought a lot harder than we did.”

The Nittany Lions looked a like a totally different team in the third set.  They came out firing, attacking at every opportunity they could.  Michigan State was playing it safe on offense, tipping and roll shotting balls as opposed to attacking them like they were for the first two sets. 

Outside hitter Megan Courtney was the go-to girl on the Lions side of the net as she had seven kills in the third set, putting her total for the match at 14.  Micha Hancock had a service ace to put the team up 24-16.  Katie Slay and Scott ended the set with a big block to get Penn State back in the match down one sets to two.

After a hitting error by Michigan State at the beginning of the fourth set, Penn State never looked back.  That error put them up 6-5, and after Scott’s 17th kill of the match they won the fourth set 25-19 with blocking help from Nia Grant and Deja McClendon. Both Grant and McClendon also had pivotal solo blocks in the middle of the set. 

Grant and Hancock had something going in the fourth set as Grant had five kills, three of which came consecutively, in the fourth set.  It seemed Penn State had the momentum going into the deciding fifth set after winning two straight.

Michigan State took a 1-0 lead in the fifth set after a hitting error by Scott and the Spartans held the lead for the entire fifth set.   Penn State committed nine errors in the fifth set which ultimately cost them the match. “When you make nine errors in the fifth game, you’re going to struggle,” said Rose.

Penn State looks to bounce back tomorrow as they take on tenth ranked Michigan at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall. 

“In sports you have to have kind of short term memory and tomorrow we can’t come out moping or anything like that,” said Slay.  “We have a good team coming in, we need to defend our house, we need to defend the Penn State name and the people who came before us and play hard, and show people what we’re made of.”

Megan Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email mem6054@psu.edu.