Oct. 23, 2013
East Lansing, Mich - A Jenison Field House-record crowd of 6,183 fans watched an epic four-set battle between archrivals Michigan State and Michigan on Wednesday night, and were treated to a match that featured 47 tie scores and 27 lead changes as the Wolverines took a 3-1 decision (25-20, 22-25, 24-26, 30-32). MSU dropped its third straight match and fell to 6-3 in Big Ten play, and is now 17-4 overall.
The attendance was the largest home volleyball crowd at Jenison Field House in MSU volleyball history. Only one MSU home match had a larger attendance, and that came in November 2010 at the Breslin Center (6,824). Both matches were against Michigan.
Errors once again plagued the Spartans, who committed 18 service errors - for a total of 46 over the last three matches - and hit just .187. Michigan hit just .132 over the four sets, and despite being out-blocked by MSU 15-6, got timely kills and improved to 14-6, 4-5 in the Big Ten.
Lauren Wicinski continues to carry the load for MSU, and she connected on 18 kills, had a season-best 16 digs, and had two service aces. She had 62 attempts on the night, eight shy of the career-high 70 that she turned in last Thursday at Minnesota. Kori Moster tied her career best with 29 digs, while Alexis Mathews had nine kills and nine blocks. Chloe Reinig (12 kills, career-best seven blocks) and Allyssah Fitterer (10 kills, three blocks, three digs) and Autumn Christenson (five kills, three blocks) were the three freshman who saw the most time for the Spartans. Kristen Kelsay had 26 assists and six digs, while Halle Peterson had 24 with four digs.
Michigan State jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set, forcing the Wolverines into a timeout. A Jennifer Cross kill stopped the MSU rally, then the Wolverines used a 5-2 run to tie the game, 7-7. It was then MSU's turn for a lengthy run, with seven straight points coming on Fitterer's service to give the Spartans a 14-7 lead. Four points came from Spartan kills and a Fitterer ace, and three came on Michigan hitting errors. While the visitors tried to chip away at the lead, MSU got some big blocks and also some timely kills from freshmen Fitterer and Christenson to push its lead to 23-16. Three consecutive errors from the Spartans allowed the Wolverines to pull within four, but MSU was able to close out the set with a big hit from Christenson on the right side to seal the first-set victory.
In the second set, each team used mini-runs of 2-3 points each to trade leads, as the set featured nine ties and five lead changes. MSU led by as many as four points, (14-10), but the Wolverines rallied back to tie the game at 18, 20, and 22 points. Abby Cole recorded back-to-back kills to give the Wolverines a 23-22 lead, and back-to-back Spartan errors handed the Wolverines the second-set victory. Wicinski had six kills and six digs in the set, while Fitterer and Reinig each had three kills.
In the third set, it was a dogfight point-for-point as the teams traded one-and two-point leads from wire to wire, as there were 13 ties and 10 lead changes. Tied at 21, MSU scored back-to-back points on a Lexi Erwin error and Wicinski kill to lead 23-21, but Erwin cut the lead back to a point for the Wolverines. Christenson had a big kill from the right side to give the Spartans set point at 24-22, but two straight MSU errors, followed by back-to-back kills by Jennifer Cross, sealed the third-set win for the visitors. Wicinski once again led all players with five kills and added three digs, while Moster had 10 digs in the third set alone.
The fourth set was more back-and-forth action, with 23 tie scores and 11 lead changes in a set that eventually went to the Wolverines, 32-30. Two points was the largest lead that either team could muster; both squads posted their best hitting percentages of the night - Michigan hit .362 with 22 kills in 47 attempts, while the Spartans hit .390, with 19 kills on 41. Lauren Wicinski had four kills, two digs, and an ace in the set, while Mathews had five kills and two blocks, hitting .714. After the teams tied at 21, they engaged in an elevated game of cat-and-mouse, with each team having chances with set point but the opponent battling back to tie the game or take a lead. MSU had three set points to UM's four, and on the fourth one the Wolverines were finally able to put the match away on a Molly Toon service ace. Both Toon and Abby Cole had seven kills in that final frame for UM.
The Spartans look to snap their three-game skid when they welcome Indiana to Jenison Field House on Saturday evening for a 6:30 p.m. match.