Aug 31, 2013
Blacksburg, Va. - Trailing by two sets to the host team, Michigan State rallied for a 3-2 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday night in Blacksburg. MSU improves to 3-1 overall on the season with the 18-25, 20-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-12 victory.
Lauren Wicinski had her second double-double of the weekend (20 kills, 11 digs), and junior defensive specialist-turned-setter Ryian Hubbard recorded the first double-double of her career with 16 assists and 10 digs.
"We just refused to give up when we went down 2-0," said Wicinski. "We obviously have a bit of adversity right now, and different players have all stepped up at different times. We remained confident and determined to win, and we fought hard. I'm really proud of our team."
Several Spartans had career-bests in the match. Kelsey Kuipers had a career best in blocks (6) and contributed four kills, while Alexis Mathews' 15 kills tied her career best, previously set in 2011. In addition, MSU got big contributions from freshmen Allyssah Fitterer (nine blocks, three kills) and Autumn Christenson (seven kills, four digs).
MSU's All-Tournament Team selections were Wicinski and Mathews.
MSU entered the tournament finale short three starters - junior Taylor Galloway left first Saturday game against Pacific with an injury, while setter Halle Peterson (injury) and Chloe Reinig (ill) were also not available to the Spartans. While Saturday's games provided MSU's young players more time, the absences were a challenge to overcome. Fighting back from a 2-0 deficit in the match, the Spartans showed head coach Cathy George that there was some fight in her team, and were up to the challenge.
Big hits and clawing for every point was the story of the first set, which featured 17 ties and four lead changes. Neither team could post more than a one-point lead until VaTech went up 19-17 on a back-to-back kills by Victoria Hamsher; that kicked off an 8-1 run for the Hokies, as Samantha Gostling closed out the set with three big kills from the left side. Wicinski had four kills in the first game, while Christenson and Mathews each had three; however, that couldn't overcome the Hokies hitting .538 in the opening set.
The Hokies used a big 10-3 run after the second set was tied at five-all to take a 15-8 lead, but MSU battled back into it with three straight kills by Wicinski to cut VaTech's lead to four points. From there, eight of the next combined 19 points came on errors, but the Hokies held on and took the set, 25-20.
MSU opened the third set on a 5-0 run, but the Hokies climbed back into it at 6-3 with a couple big blocks. The teams exchanged some long rallies, and VaTech pulled within two on a Kathryn Caine slam from the right side. Four straight serves and a pair of kills by Wicinski, forced the Virginia Tech staff to call back-to-back time outs with MSU leading 18-11. VaTech battled back into it to pull within 23-19, but a big kill from Mathews and a block on the left side from Wicinski, who had seven kills in the set, sealed the victory for MSU, 25-19.
In the fourth set, MSU built to a 12-8 lead, led by three straight kills from Wicinski. The senior imposed her will at the net with a block and another kill to help push the lead to 17-11, forcing the home team into a timeout. The home team fought back into it at 19-16 and 23-20, but the Spartans closed out the fourth set on back-to-back kills by Wicinski.
The Spartans allowed the home team a 3-0 lead in the fifth and deciding set, but quickly rattled off seven straight points and led 8-5 on the crossover on a kill by Mathews. The teams fought it out point-for point, with VaTech making it a one-point game at 13-12; a Kuipers kill and ace by Kristen Kelsay sealed the five-set comeback victory.
MSU will take a week to prepare for its home opener next Friday against No. 8 Oregon at 7 p.m. at Jenison Field House.