Volleyball Falls in Five Set Thriller to No. 1 Illinois, 3-2
Oct. 15, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Michigan State volleyball team (15-5, 4-4 Big Ten) dropped a five set thriller to No. 1 Illinois (19-0, 8-0 Big Ten) on the road in Huff Hall on Saturday night (Oct. 15), 3-2 (25-22, 25-21, 18-25, 23-25, 15-9). Senior Kyndra Abron's 16 kills proved to be not enough for the Spartan offense against the topped-ranked Illini.
"Tonight was a match filled with mixed emotions," said MSU head coach Cathy George. "On one hand, it is great to see the girls fight back from being down 2-0 and go five with the No. 1 team in the nation, but we made too many unforced errors in set five, which cost us a chance to close out the match. As I am sure most teams are saying following a close match like tonight, but there are just little things that can sway a match one way or another. We need to get everything pulled together as we get ready for Michigan on Wednesday.
MSU opened the match struggling, dropping the first two points of the match. After trading points with the Illini for several serves, the Spartans allowed Illinois to hold a 7-4 lead. The Green and White finally pulled back within one at 10-9 and followed that up with the first lead of the contest at 12-13. After neither squad gained advantage, the Spartans forced the first timeout of the match to be called at 15-18. MSU remained in control of the set, pushing its lead to five, 17-22, as Illinois called its final timeout of the set. The Illini responded strong following the break, taking the next eight points to claim the 25-22 opening set one. Abron and classmate Jenilee Rathje paced the Green and White during the opening frame with four kills each.
The Spartans looked to rebound in set two following a tough opening set loss. After dropping the initial point, Michigan State ran out to a 5-2 lead over Illinois. The Illini pulled within one at 4-5 before tying the set up at seven. MSU regained its composure and pulled another multi-point lead at 12-9. Illinois was forced to call its lone timeout of set two with MSU leading, 17-13. After the next three fell in favor of the Illini, the Spartans called their first of two timeouts at 17-16. The Fighting Illini tied the set up for the final time at 17 before the Green and White called the final timeout of set two at 23-21. Illinois took the final two points of set two to post the 25-21 win. Abron netted five kills to lead the Spartans in set two.
In what looked to be a quick end to the night, Illinois opened the third set by taking the first four points. The Spartans responded with their own 5-0 run to take their first lead of the set. MSU allowed the Illini to hold the lead one more time at 5-6 before going off with control of the set. The Spartans forced Illinois to call its first timeout of set three at 12-8, but the Fighting Illini got within two at 13-11. Michigan State held its largest lead of the night of six at 21-15, causing Illinois to call its final break of the set. The Green and White remained in control, claiming the set 25-18. Abron and Rathje showed their dominance with three kills apiece.
With control of the match, the Spartans jumped out early on the Illini with the 11-8 lead, forcing Illinois to call its first break of the set. MSU pulled back offensively, allowing the Fighting Illini to remain in the contest as they tied the set at 15, causing the Green and White to call a timeout. The Illini continued to press on offensively, forcing MSU to call a timeout at 19-21. Immediately following the break, Abron made history as she became the 18th Spartan all-time to recorded 1,000 kills in a career. After the next two went in favor of the Spartans, Illinois called their final timeout of the set. Michigan State closed out the close fourth set by a score of 25-23. Abron continued her offensive dominance with a team-best four kills.
MSU took the initial point of the final set, but Illinois stormed back to force a Green and White timeout at 7-4, MSU's first of the set. The Spartans continued to fight after switching sides down by four, 8-4. Michigan State got within one at 9-8 to force Illinois to call its first timeout of the set. The Fighting Illini took the final six of seven points to close out the match, 15-9. Rathje's four kills to close out the match were not enough for the Spartan's offense.
Rathje continued her streak of double-digit kill numbers with her eighth straight, recording 15 tonight against the Illini. Rathje also posted her second double-double in as many nights with 12 digs. Senior Becca Zlabis joined Abron and Rathje offensively with a season-high 13 kills. Defensively, freshman Kori Moster was the backbone for the Green and White with a match-high 22 digs, her third-straight match with 20 or more digs. At the net, freshman Jazmine White paced the squad with a career-best five blocks, while Zlabis and sophomore Alexis Mathew chipped in an additional four, including two solos. Sophomore Kristen Kelsay led the Spartans in assists with 28, while senior Natalie Emro chipped in 21.
MSU returns to action on Wednesday, Oct. 19 when it faces Michigan at 8 p.m. ET. Action in East Lansing will be covered live on the Big Ten Network.
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