Oct. 4, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. - - Michigan State improved to 14-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten with a sweep of visiting Illinois, 3-0, on Friday night at Jenison Field House. Reigning Big Ten and AVCA National Player of the Week Lauren Wicinski posted a game-best 18 kills, four digs, and two blocks, while hitting .519 on the night (18-3-29).
Senior Kristen Kelsay had a game-best 22 assists on the nightand also added eight digs; she faced off across from her sister, Illinois freshman McKenna, for the first time in a competitive game. The younger Kelsay entered the game in the second set and had 14 assists, a dig, and a service ace for her team.
"For me, it was so special to play against her," said Kelsay. "I thought she did a great job for them, and we had to adjust a little bit when she came in with the offense they are now running. At the time, though, I was thinking more about how we could stop them, not so much about it being my sister." "We still have work to do. It was great to get a win tonight, but we want to win the weekend," continued Kelsay. "We know that one job is done, but we really need to focus and get ready for Northwestern tomorrow."
Lix McMahon had 10 kills for Illinois, to go with two blocks. Joscelynn Birks had eight digs and six kills for the Illini (5-8, 1-2 Big Ten).
MSU is off to its best start in Conference play since the start of the 1996 season, where the Spartans got off to a 12-0 start in Big Ten games. The Spartans extended their streak to 12 consecutive victories, during which MSU has dropped just six sets. Most importantly, with the strength of the Conference, the Spartans are undefeated against Big Ten competition, own a perfect 4-0 record in road contests and are a perfect 6-0 at home.
In the opening set, MSU was quick to begin building a lead, pulling ahead 8-2 early and eventually holding a nine-point advantage at 18-9. MSU cruised to a 25-15 win in the opening set in large part by hitting .417 (13-3-24) in that first game, while holding Illinois to .138 (9-5-29). Wicinksi had five kills and two digs in the opening set, while Reinig had four and two blocks.
The teams were tied 6-6 in the second set before MSU opened it up with a 5-0 run, with scoring plays by five different players. Six would be MSU's largest lead in the set at 18-12, as the Illini tried to fight its way back. Illinois got as close as four points at 22-18, but a Allyssa Fitterer kill, an attack error by Jocelynn Birks, and Wicinski's 10th kill of the night sealed the win for MSU in set two.
In the third set, the Spartans built to a 13-6 lead on short bursts of points, getting runs of three or four points on the serves of Kelsay, Moster, and Halle Peterson. The Spartans never looked back, building to an eight-point lead on an Fitterer kill (14-6). The Illini were able to whittle it down to four points at 16-12, with four of their 10 points in the run coming on MSU errors. The teams traded points until it got to 20-15, when MSU used a kills by Reinig and Alexis Mathews to push their lead back to six, then capitalized on a pair of Illinois errors. MSU got its final two points in the set from Wicinski, who had seven of her 17 kills in the final set. Illinois hit just .125 in the final set, while hitting .519.
The 14-1 start is the best under ninth-year head coach Cathy George, as well as the 3-0 start in Big Ten games the best during the mentor's tenure.
Michigan State is back in action on Saturday when it hosts Northwestern at 7 p.m.