Spartans fall to No. 8 Penn State in Sunday Matinee

Michigan State University
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East Lansing, Mich. -- Michigan State fell to No. 8 Penn State at home on Sunday, 3-0 (24-26, 11-25, 19-25). MSU has dropped both matches with the Nittany Lions this season and falls to 13-5 overall and 4-4 in Big Ten play. Penn State improves to 14-3 and 7-1 in Conference play.

The Spartans got off to a hot start and led their guests by as many as seven points in the opening frame, but the Nittany Lions fought back into it with a furious rally to take the first set by a 26-24 margin. The Spartans struggled with five straight errors to start the second set and could never find their rhythm again until late in the third, but by then it was too large a deficit to overcome.

Penn State held an edge in blocks (10-8), kills (42-35), hitting percentage (.289-.147), and aces (8-2),

MSU was led by nine kills from Meredith Norris , and she added four digs. Both Alyssa Chronowski and Molly Johnson had seven kills, with Johnson hitting a team-best .317 and sharing the team lead with four blocks. Both Naya Gros and Becka Poljan had four blocks as well.

Jonni Parker led Penn State with 10 kills and added three blocks, eeand Kaitlyn Hord had eight kills, hit .467, and had five blocks (two solo). Libero Kendall White led all players with 18 digs, while adding three assists and four service aces.

The Spartans continue a four-match homestand next weekend when it hosts Wisconsin (Friday) and Minnesota (Sunday).

PLAYER HIGHS
• Meredith Norris had nine kills and 14 digs
• Naya Gros, Molly Johnson, and Rebecka Poljan each posted four digs, with Johnson adding seven kills and hitting a team-best .312.
• Elena Shklyar had 14 assists and seven digs, while Audrey Alford had 18 helpers and five digs.

STATS & STORYLINES
• MSU dropped both ends of the home-and-home series with the Nittany Lions, falling by 3-0 scores in each match. Penn State has extended its winning streak in the series to 11 straight.
• Jamye Cox had 13 digs, her 16th time in 18 matches with double-digit dig totals.
• Rebecka Poljan had four blocks, four kills, and a service ace.

SET SYNOPSIS
• SET ONE: Michigan State opened up a four-point edge at 9-5, hitting .500 (8-0-16), MSU held it through the media time out at 15-11, with its only three errors coming via Penn State block (10-3-23, .304). MSU was, per usual distributing its offense – five players had two kills each, and at 16-12, Poljan and Johnson put up a huge block at the right pin. MSU stretched its lead out to seven on a Norris kill that allowed MSU to take a 20-13 lead, but the Nittany Lions reeled off an 11-3 run to get to set point – and got some help from the Spartans, who missed on a line shot that gave them a 26-24 win. Meredith Norris had five kills and hit .364 for MSU, who had four late errors that did not help their cause in the late stages of the set. Penn State recovered to hit .256 compared to .205 for the home team. Kaitlyn Hord led her team with four kills and added two blocks.

• SET TWO: MSU had a troubling start to the second set, allowing the Nittany Lions a 6-0 lead with five MSU errors. Norris stopped the run with a big kill from Norris at the left pin, followed by a Poljan ace. MSU stayed within four points at 8-4 to 10-6, trying to fight its way back into the set. Penn State pulled back ahead 16-10 on 9-3-16 (.375) hitting, as MSU straightened out its hitting issues to recover from the five early errors, going 6-1-14 (.357). MSU called time out after back-to-back Cathey kills made it 18-10 , giving PSU its largest lead of the day, then ran it to 20-11 on a block out of bounds. The visitors had all the momentum and used a late 6-0 run that featured a pair of service aces to get to set point at 24-11 then close it out on a tip by Gabby Blossom. Penn State rolled with a .440 hitting percentage in the frame (14-3-25), as MSU managed just seven kills in the set. Three Spartans had two kills each, while five Penn State players had either two or three kills.
• SET THREE: Both teams were hitting less than .200 early in the third, but Penn State had built a six-point edge with a pair of blocks and four kills. Penn State raced out to a 10-point edge at 18-8 with a .444 hitting percentage in the set (9-1-18), as four-and five-point scoring runs for the Nittany Lions were interrupted by single points for MSU, which was unable to build much momentum until Penn State held a 20-10 lead. MSU ran off an 8-2 run to come within four at 22-18, but Penn State closed it out with three of the final four points of the frame to secure the match win. MSU had 12 kills against six errors (five coming as PSU blocks), ad got three kills from both Poljan and Chronowski in the final frame. Poljan and Gros each had two blocks in the set as wll. Jonni Parker had five of her 10 kills and two of her three blocks in the third set for Penn State.