Senior Duo Helps Volleyball Fend Off Wildcats, 3-1
Oct. 14, 2011
EVANSTON, Ill. - The Michigan State volleyball team (15-4, 4-3 Big Ten) defeated Northwestern (10-8, 1-6 Big Ten), 3-1 (27-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20), in Evanston, Ill., on Friday, Oct. 14, in its first road match of the month. The Spartans were paced by a pair of seniors in kills. Jenilee Rathje led all individuals with 23, while Kyndra Abron followed closely with 21.
"Tonight was a big win for us," said MSU head coach Cathy George. "Any time you can steal one on the road in the Big Ten is key for a tournament bid. The team really showed maturity tonight, especially in set three. Northwestern is a good team that really came at us strong tonight, but we were able to hold them off at crucial points in the match. It's always important to start off a weekend with a win, and it was great to see the fight tonight."
MSU opened the contest strong by taking the first two points of the match. After allowing Northwestern to take its first lead of the match at 2-3, the Spartans regained the lead at 4-3 before NU held the 4-6 advantage over the Green and White. The two squads would trade service before Michigan State finally regained the lead at 9-8. NU recorded its final lead of the set at 12-13 prior to the Green and White took four straight to hold the 16-13 advantage, forcing the Wildcats into a timeout. The Spartans continued to lead throughout set one, forcing set point at 24-22. Northwestern tied the contest again at 24, forcing the Spartans to call a timeout before finally claiming the opening set, 27-25. Rathje led the Green and White with a team-best six kills in the opening set. Combined with senior Kyndra Abron's five, the two tallied more kills than the Wildcats to start the match.
The Spartans struggled in the opening moments of set two, however quickly regained form with the early 7-4 lead. MSU continued to press on, forcing NU into its first timeout of set two with the Green and White leading, 11-6. Michigan State allowed the Wildcats to tie the set at 16 before once again establishing a multi-point lead at 19-16, causing NU to call a timeout. The Spartans closed out set two to hold a 2-0 lead into intermission, 25-20. Abron, once again, was stellar offensively, leading MSU with eight kills. Rathje followed Abron with four of her own.
After Northwestern appeared to be running away with set three, MSU rallied back to make it a close set. The Wildcats opened up the set by taking the first three points. After the Spartans were forced to call their first timeout of the set, trailing by three at 18-15, MSU took the next five of six to gain the 19-20 lead with NU calling its first break of the set. The next two points fell in favor of the Wildcats, forcing the final Green and White timeout to be called, 21-20. MSU tied the set back up at 21, but Northwestern proved to be too strong, winning set three, 25-23. Rathje tallied a set-high seven kills, while Abron chipped in an additional four.
MSU dropped the opening point of the set before going off on an offensive explosion. The Spartans boasted its first significant lead at 4-1 prior to a four-point advantage at 6-2. Northwestern pulled within one at 6-5, but the Green and White forced the first NU timeout at 10-5. The Spartan lead became six at 14-8 before Northwestern called its final timeout of the match at 17-10. Michigan State pressed strong against the Wildcats, putting its lead to eight, 19-11, before NU got within four at 20-16. The Northwestern rally forced the Spartans into their lone timeout of the set. MSU came back onto the court and finished off the Wildcats by a score of 25-20. Rathje led the Green and White with five kills on the set. Abron followed closely with four.
Joining Rathje and Abron in double-digit kills was sophomore Alexis Mathews. Mathews was also the top Spartan at the net with five blocks. Defensively, freshman Kori Moster tallied a career-best 28 digs. Moster's 28 digs are the second most in program history for a four-set match, and the most under the 25-point scoring system. Joining Moster in the digs mark was senior Carli Weiler with 10 and Rathje with 10. This marked Rathje's third double-double of the season and 11th in her career. Quarterbacking the team with 34 assists was sophomore Kristen Kelsay. Senior Natalie Emro dished out an additional 21 assists for the Spartan offense.
Michigan State returns to action tomorrow, Oct. 15, when it faces No. 1 Illinois in Huff Hall at 8 p.m. ET in Champaign, Ill.
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