In the midst of a five-game stretch against ranked opponents, Michigan State volleyball (15-9) was swept by No. 3 Minnesota (17-3) Friday night. The Spartans were led by freshman middle blocker Rebecka Poljan and senior outside hitter Maddie Haggerty with 9 kills each.
And, while the team did not win a set, it was closer than the set score suggests.
“I think it’s just the expectation in the Big Ten that everyone is going to be good,” said Poljan. “Every night we go against someone like this. It’s not anything new. We need to rise to the occasion and I think going into this, we had a totally aggressive mindset.”
With freshmen Poljan and Naya Gross each with a kill to lead the way, the Spartans started out the first set 5-2.
The Golden Gophers began matching the energy to take a 14-10, going on a 4-0 run ended by Poljan with a kill. After the media timeout with the Golden Gophers leading 15-11, the Spartans went on a run to match — a trend in the set with 9 total ties.
However, it was not enough to finish and the Golden Gophers took the first set, 25-22.
A quick 4-0 lead for the Spartans started the second set, forcing the Golden Gophers to take a timeout. The Spartans held a lead for the majority of the set until the Golden Gophers inched their way back in to a tie at 19.
The Spartans took a timeout down 21-20 and came back in to tie the game at 23. The Golden Gophers then took the last two points to win the second set.
“There’s definitely not an easy team in the Big Ten so we knew it was going to be a good match,” said Haggerty. “I thought we felt the game plan pretty well in game one and two and they were just the better team tonight but we got better so I’m proud of us for that.”
As if the first two sets were not close enough between these two teams, the last set started out on back-and-fourth returning kills until the Golden Gophers went on a 3-0 run forcing the Spartans into a timeout.
With the Golden Gophers holding their largest lead of the set at 18-10, the Spartans took another timeout but could not come back. They lost the final set by the largest margin of the night, 25-15.
“We’ve got to take what we can from this and make sure we’re moving on for the next day,” said head coach Cathy George. “I think we’ve got to remind ourselves to stay aggressive and go forward and really just compete and play hard.”
The Spartans will finish their final full weekend at home against No. 7 Wisconsin Saturday at 7 p.m.