Michigan State got 21 kills, two aces, and nine digs from Lauren Wicinski and a double-double from Kristen Kelsay (27 assists, 11 dig) to upset top-ranked Penn State 3-2 (25-23, 26-24, 19-25, 19-25, 15-9) in State College on Friday evening in the Big Ten opener for both teams. The Spartans win their tenth straight and improve to 12-1 on the season, and snapped an 18-match losing streak to the Nittany Lions. Penn State is now 9-2 on the year.
MSU last won in State College in 2001, a 3-1 victory. The last win for the Spartans over the Nittany Lions came a year later, a 3-2 victory at Jenison Field House. In PSU’s 18-match winning streak, the Spartans had won just seven sets, and won two sets in the same match just twice during that streak (in the two meetings in 2003).
Both Wicinski and Taylor Galloway finished just shy of a double-double, as Galloway had 10 kills and nine digs. Chloe Reinig had 12 kills in her Big Ten debut. With six blocks, Alexis Mathews moved her career total to 497.
For Penn State, Arial Scott had 18 kills, eight digs, and five blocks; Katie Slay had 11 kills and six blocks, and Micha Hancock had 57 assists and nine kills.
The opening set featured some long rallies, with both teams having to fight point-for-point. The Nittany Lions were able to gain a bit of separation at 17-14, when MSU called its time out. Reinig had the most success against the Lions early, with four kills before the timeout. PSU took its largest lead at 20-15, and Michigan State put together a three-point rally to pull within two points on a pair of errors by the home team and a booming kill by Wicinski. The Spartans kept chipping away, and turned that five-point deficit into a 24-23 lead with a 9-3 run, and a lengthy rally at set point for MSU was ended by a big kill by Fitterer from the right side to take the opening set and a 1-0 lead in the match. Wicinski had six kills in the opening set, while Reinig had five. Kelsay managed seven assists and six digs in the curtain-lifter.
The second set was also a battle point-for-point. MSU’s largest lead of the set came early at two points, while the Nittany Lions had a four-point lead at 23-19 late in the frame. MSU rallied to tie the set at 23, thanks to a kill and a block by Reinig and Mathews; another big block at the right side by Mathews and Galloway, then a PSU error. The teams traded points with big kills by Paulina Preito Cerame and Reinig. Ryian Hubbard came in to serve for the Spartans; a big block on the left side by Reinig and Mathews brought the Spartans to set point, and an error by Deja McClendon gave MSU the second-set victory.
In the third set, Penn State took control midway through and posted a 25-19 victory. The Nittany Lions built to their largest lead of the night at seven points (16-9), and used big hits from their outside hitters to put the set away.
In the fourth set, the teams were tied at six and started to build to a 19-12 lead in the 4th set, using a four kills and a block by Nia Grant to cap a run. At 22-15, Penn State once again tied for its largest lead of the night, but the Spartans kept chipping away, cutting the lead to five (23-18). With PSU serving for set point at 24-18, the Spartans got a kill from Wicinksi, but an Ariel Scott kill from the right side – her 17th of the night – tied the match at 2-2.
MSU took a 6-3 lead in the final set, but a pair of error pulled Penn State back within one. Wicinski had four kills in the early part of the final set, and two PSU errors gave MSU an 8-6 lead at the crossover. A Fitterer ace forced the Nittany Lions into a timeout at 9-6, and the home team battled back within a point before a Reinig and Galloway block, followed by a Hancock error, pushed MSU’s lead back to three points. Mathews and Galloway put a block on Slay for MSU’s 12th point, but Wicinski’s next attempt sailed just long to put Hancock on the line to serve for the home team. The Spartans got the sideout, as Kelsay sailed the ball over the net on a dink, and a long attempt by Scott put the Spartans at set point. A block by Mathews and Wicinski at the left pin sealed the victory for MSU.