Ohio State then-freshman outside hitter Vanja Bukilic, then-freshman outside hitter Adria Powell and then-sophomore setter Becca Mauer prepare for a volley in the match against Northwestern on Nov. 4 at St. John Arena. Ohio State lost to Northwestern in four sets. Credit: Colin Gay | Former Sports Editor

A 13-point first-set loss set the tone for the Ohio State’s second Big Ten loss of the season to Michigan State.

Ohio State (8-7, 1-2 Big Ten) dropped three straight sets (12-25, 21-25, 21-25) to Michigan State (11-2, 2-1) Friday night at the Covelli Center.

“We had 21 hitting errors and they had six,” head coach Geoff Carlston said. “We didn’t stop them as much as we needed to and we gave them too many easy points and we need to clean that up.”

The Buckeyes started slow as they faced a Michigan State block that collected seven points in the first set.

“The irony is we told them that Michigan State gets a lot of energy off of blocks so let’s not get blocked,” Carlston said. “We got blocked more than we got blocked all year. We need to keep growing and figuring out that that shot doesn’t work.”

As the match wore on, Ohio State hitters gained confidence and made adjustments. Senior hitter Madison Smeathers and freshman outside hitter Gabby Gonzales combined for 21 kills for the Buckeyes. 

The Spartans showed a diversified offensive presence with contributions from junior outside hitter Meredith Norris, sophomore middle hitter Naya Gros, sophomore middle hitter Rebecka Poljan and junior outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski.

“We always talk about when it’s tight you have to be the person that wants to go for it because fate always go towards the aggressive person,” Smeathers said.

After dropping the first two sets, the Buckeyes held a third-set lead until Michigan State regained the advantage in the final points of the match. 

Smeathers said redshirt junior hitter Jordan Fry energized the Buckeyes in the third set, but Ohio State still couldn’t execute a win.

“I wish I could tell you why it wasn’t there in the first two,” Smeathers said. “We realized that there wasn’t much game left and we had to come out with it.”

Carlston said he wants the coaching staff to take a step back and let those leaders motivate the rest of the team from within and make adjustments in the coming games. 

“We need some leadership on the court,” Smeathers said. “We need a good mass of people to follow those leaders so we can stop making so many mistakes.”

The Buckeyes face a quick turnaround against Michigan Sunday, a team that beat them in straight sets this past weekend.

“We need to make a decision that we’re going to learn and that we’re going to grow,” Carlston said. “We need to execute when the lights are on and we’re playing a team with a different colored jersey.”

Ohio State takes on Michigan at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Covelli Center.