Michigan State captured the UAB/Samford Invitational title on Saturday evening with a four-set victory over the co-host Bulldogs (25-12, 25-12, 31-33, 25-19). Three Spartans earned All-Tournament team honors as No. 16 MSU improved to 4-0 on the season.
Allyssah Fitterer earned tournament MVP honors, hitting .417 and averaging 3.54 kills per set; she also had four service aces, 15 digs and nine blocks. Also named to the All-Tournament team was Chloe Reinig (2.83 kps, .333 hitting percentage, nine blocks) and senior libero Kori Moster (51 digs, 3.91 per set).
In Saturday's match, Fitterer once again led the Spartan offensive attack with 16 kills and three blocks, hitting .462 on the night. Reinig had 11 kills, including four in the fourth set, and Alyssa Garvaelink had six kills and seven blocks. Rachel Minarick had 35 assists, two blocks, and eight digs.
"It's a growth process, and I think we both made some strides and took a step back here and there in the fourth match this weekend," said head coach Cathy George. "We have to learn to handle some adversity, and it actually good that we had some - our schedule is difficult, and will only get tougher as we work our way through the non-conference season towards Big Ten matches.
The Spartans had a balanced, yet potent attack that they brought to the floor in the opening set. Samford held a brief 3-2 lead, but MSU pulled ahead and retained the lead for good at 4-3. Samford was able to trim the lead to 9-7 before the Spartans put together a 6-0 run, fueled by a pair of kills from Toliver and back-to-back aces by White. With MSU leading 15-8, the visitors put up a 10-4 run which closed out the opening set. Fitterer led all scorers with three kills in the opening set, and two other Spartans had two each. MSU hit .261, and limited their hosts to .061, in large part due to their nine errors.
From a slight 8-6 edge in set two, MSU once again built to a sizeable lead to take a 17-8 advantage, in part due to four errors by the home team. White mixed in her third ace of the evening during the run, and MSU hit .381 in the second to seal a 25-12 victory.
The third set saw a different Samford team. From a 7-7 deadlock, the Bulldogs used a run of Spartan errors to build to a 13-10 lead, its largest lead of the contests. The teams battled point-for-point to 18-15, but MSU battled back to tie it at 18-all on a kill by Minarick, an error, and block at the left pin by Reinig and Garvelink. MSU's run increased to 6-0 after a timeout to give the Spartans a three-point edge at 21-18 in great part to three straight blocks from Garvelink, but the home team countered with a 3-1 run to make it a one point game, 22-21. The teams engaged in a point-for-point battle until the home team eventually took a 33-31 victory to extend the match to a fourth set. MSU committed seven of its 12 errors to that point in the third, but out-blocked Samford 5-0.
MSU used an 8-0 run to open up a 10-2 edge in the fourth, and pushed it to 14-7 before the Bulldogs pushed back into it to make it a four-point game at 14-10. Samford fed off the energy from its crowd and cut it to a one-point deficit (17-18) with a 7-4 run, getting back-to-back kills from Gabi Greenwald after a service ace. MSU put its foot on the gas with a 6-1 run to bring it to match point, and finished it off with a kill by Reinig to take the match in four sets.
The Spartans (4-0) host No. 21 North Carolina and No. 20 Duke next weekend at Jenison Field House. Friday's game airs live on the Big Ten Network in a 7 p.m. start.