Oct. 12, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. - - Seventh-ranked Michigan State emerged as the winner in the battle of Big Ten unbeatens, downing No. 9 Nebraska, 3-1 (25-20, 26-24, 20-25, 25-19) on Saturday night at Jenison Field House. The Spartans improve to 17-1 with the victory and maintain a perfect unbeaten record in the Big Ten at 6-0; Nebraska is now 12-3, 5-1 Big Ten.
All four sets were entertaining and featured big rallies, athletic digs, and monster blocks which entertained the crowd of 4,228 which came to watch a battle of top-10 teams. The team's top hitters, Nebraska's Kelsey Robinson and MSU's Lauren Wicinski, proved that they were Player of the Year candidates as they went kill-for-kill in the match, as they each finished with 20 kills. Robinson finished with a double-double, recording 12 digs, two assists, and two blocks; Wicinski just missed the double-double with nine digs, a block, two aces, and three assists.
For the Spartans, the freshman duo of Allyssah Fitterer (11 kills, five blocks) and Chloe Reinig (13 kills, three digs) each had season-highs in kills as well. Libero Kori Moster was outstanding, putting up 20 digs and six assists, while Kristen Kelsay had 27 assists and five digs. Alexis Mathews had five blocks and seven kills.
For Nebraska, Kadie Rolfzen also had a double-double, with 13 kills and 10 digs to go with three blocks.
The Huskers out-blocked the Spartans 11.5-8, but MSU hit .288 in the match compared to Nebraska's 258. While Nebraska was fairly consistent with their hitting across the five sets (their low was .200 in the second set, but hit between .250-.323 in the other three), MSU opened hitting .323 and .304 in the first two sets, but managed just .061 in a third set in which Nebraska led by as many as nine points. The Spartans roared back to hit .483 in the decisive fourth set.
While Nebraska never led in the opening set and the Spartans led by as many as seven points (13-6), the Huskers kept fighting back and several times pulled within two points at 16-14. From there, the teams traded points through 19-17, then MSU put five straight points on the board - including three straight kills from Wicinski - before Robinson stopped the Spartan rally with a kill to make it 24-18. The Spartans sealed the victory with a big block by Mathews and Fitterer on Robinson to earn the first set victory.
In the second set, MSU went up by four points early, but the Huskers battled back and tied it at 10-10., MSU pushed back ahead, leading 16-13, but another Husker rally found the teams tied at 18, then going point-for-point until tied at The Huskers had set point at 24-23, but MSU battled back to score three straight points - the set-sealing point coming on another Mathews block - as the Spartans took the second set 26-24 and took a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
After the break, Nebraska came out fiery and determined, and jumped out to a 15-7 lead, helped in large part by six Spartan errors in the early part of the set. MSU trailed by as many as 10 points (19-9), but Kori Moster served five straight Spartan points - the first three coming on Husker errors, followed by back-to-back kills by Wicinski - to pull within five at 19-14. MSU got it within three (21-18), but the visitors polished off the set 25-20 to force a fourth game.
The third-set win by the Huskers snapped a streak of 15 consecutive sets won in Big Ten play, and was just the third set dropped at home by the Spartans - MSU had defeated both No. 12 Oregon and Duquesne by 3-1 scores.
In the fourth, MSU showed a sturdy determination, leading to the team hitting .483 to finish off the Huskers, 25-19. The teams remained within a point until MSU finally took a 9-7 lead on a Reinig kill. The Spartans used it as a springboard for a mini-rally, pulling ahead by four - the biggest lead of the set at that point - at 14-10, forcing the Huskers into a time out. Nebraska pulled within two points again at 18-16, but a 4-1 run put the Spartans at 22-17. From there, Nebraska tried to extend the match, MSU put it away with Fitterer and Wicinski kills to set up match point, and a Husker error sealed the victory for the Spartans.
MSU, which earned its first-ever win over Nebraska last year at Jenison Field House, is now 2-11-2 in the all-time series and has won two straight.
The Spartans have a short week, preparing for a match at Minnesota on Thursday night. That match will be televised on ESPN2; Sunday's showdown at Wisconsin will be carried by the Big Ten Network.