MSU Volleyball: Spartans Fall at No. 5 Nebraska, 3-1

Michigan State University
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Lincoln, Neb. -- Michigan State couldn’t maintain a hot start at Nebraska on Friday, falling to the fifth-ranked Huskers, 3-1 (25-21, 15-25, 14-25, 22-25). Nebraska is now 12-2 overall and 4-1 in Conference play, and MSU is 11-4, 2-3 B1G.

MSU held an early lead but fell behind by as many as five points in the opening set before rallying to score eight of the final nine points of the set, but saw the home team return the favor with a 7-0 run to close out the second set to even the match at 1-1. The home team ran away with the third set, using a 10-2 run to build to a 10-point edge and take a 25-14 win and 2-1 match lead. The teams were closer in the fourth, but the home team was able to finish off a 25-22 decision for the match victory.

Nebraska held the match edge in kills (53-38, blocks (14-9), digs (72-62), and hitting percentage (.196-.038), MSU’s roughest hitting night of the season. Jazz Sweet led the match with 16 kills and added five blocks, and Lexi Sun had a double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs.

The Spartans had two players just miss a double-double: Meredith Norris had 11 kills and nine digs, adding a pair of blocks; Audrey Alford had 15 assists and nine digs. Naya Gros led the Spartans with six blocks and also posted nine kills.

The Spartans head to Iowa City for a Sunday matchup with the Hawkeyes.

PLAYER HIGHS
• Meredith Norris just missed a double-double with 11 kills and nine digs.
• Naya Gros had nine kills and six blocks.
• Jamye Cox and Samantha McLean each had 13 digs, with McLean adding a pair of aces and Cox posting three assists.

STATS & STORYLINES
• The Spartans suffered from their roughest hitting night of the season, hitting .038. MSU hit .200 in the opening set but couldn’t get over .100 in any of the next three sets
• Nebraska tallied 14 blocks, the most for an MSU opponent this season. Maryland had 13.5 last Saturday as the previous high.
• Freshman Emma Monks saw her first action in a Big Ten match and had a kill and a pair of digs.
• Both setters had 15 assists; Elena Shklyar added four digs,Audrey Alford nine.
• Molly Johnson had four kills and four blocks.

SET SYNOPSIS
• SET ONE: MSU took a 7-4 lead, but the home team came back to tie it at sevens. The home team used a 4-0 scoring run – all on kills, two from Madi Kubik – to take their first lead of the match and extend the lead out to three at 13-10, and MSU called a time out. MSU got it down to two (15-13) on a service run by Rebecka Poljan, and stayed within a pair on back-to-back kills by Gros. Nebraska won the race to 20 on a kill off the block by Hames, but a kill by Kabengele followed by a McLean ace made it a one-point game. Nebraska called time out, but that didn’t stymie a Spartan run – MSU used a 4-0 run to go up 21-20, getting a tip from Norris and a block by Johnson and Poljan. Nebraska called its second time out after Gros and Johnson put up a second block in four points, and took a 23-21 lead. Out of the hiatus, a hitting error for Nebraska gave MSU set point, and Norris finished it off with a kill from the left pin. She finished the frame with a team-best six kills, while three other Spartans had two. Johnson had her hands on both Spartan blocks, and Samantha McLean led the way with seven of MSU’s 17 digs.

• SET TWO: Nebraska came out angry and determined in the second set and took a quick 5-0 lead, forcing the Spartans to take an early time out to regroup. MSU found its groove and began to play even with its hosts, trimming it to 10-6 on a kill by Swartz and down to 12-9 after another McLean ace. The home team built it back out to five on a Jazz Sweet termination, but service errors were dogging the Huskers. The Nebraska lead three times reached back out to five, but the Spartans would trim it down to three on each occasion. Nebraska reached 20 first for a second straight set (20-15), and a pair of Spartan swings sailed out of bounds to make it 22-15, making it the largest MSU deficit. Four straight errors for MSU helped the Huskers close out the set on a 7-0 run and even the match at 1-1 with a 25-15 win. MSU hit -.097 in the frame (the lowest in a set this season), but got three kills from Naya Gros. The Huskers hit .333 (13-4-27), with four kills from Jazz Sweet and three each from Lexi Sun ad Lauren Stivrins.

• SET THREE: The teams were even early, and with MSU within a pair at 10-8, the Huskers mounted an 10-2 run to go up 20-10, hitting .310 (13-4-29) to MSU’s .077 (6-4-26). Jazz Sweet had four of Nebraska’s kills in that run, and it opened up a comfortable lead for Nebraska, who took the set by a 25-14 score. The Spartans had second consecutive rough set with a .051 hitting percentage, (10-8-39), in great part thanks to five Husker blocks in the frame. Nebraska hit .270 (14-4-37), with Sweet finishing the set with six terminations, two digs, and a block. Norris had four of MSU’s 10 kills, and Gros had three kills and a block.

• SET FOUR: MSU put up a pair of big blocks (Gros with a hand on both) early in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead, but the home team battled back to tie things up at 6-6 and then took its first lead at 10-9 when it finished off a long rally with a block by Lexi Sun and Callie Schwartzenbach. Nebraska would go on to score four of the next five points – two kills from Sweet – and got a challenge to overturn a kill off the block by Norris to take a 15-10 lead, and MSU called time out and rallied with three straight points out of the break to make it 15-13, but the home team got it back with a block and a pair of Spartan errors that made it 18-13 in favor of the Big Red, forcing the Spartans to use their second time out. Nebraska held on to that five-point edge to get to 20-15, but MSU got back-to-back kills from Chronowski to trim it down to three, and it was Nebraska’s turn to call time out to regroup. The teams traded points after the Husker time out, and MSU while MSU got within two at 24-22, Sweet finished it off with a shot that kissed the line for a 25-22 fourth-set win. Alyssa Chronowski and Molly Johnson each had three kills, and Gros compiled four blocks.