Nov. 9, 2013
Champaign, Ill. - Allyssah Fitterer had a career-high 15 kills and added five blocks, but No. 13 Michigan State fell in four sets to Illinois on Saturday, (19-25, 25-21, 17-25, 19-25), dropping MSU to 19-7, 8-6 in the Big Ten. Illinois earned its first weekend sweep, and improved to .500 on the season at 12-12; they are now tied with MSU with a 8-6 Conference mark, and have won four of their last five.
Lauren Wicinski had 17 kills , six digs, and four blocks, while Alexis Mathews had eight blocks and six kills. Fitterer, who hit .786 (12-1-14) at Northwestern on Friday, hit .520 on Saturday, had 15 kills on a career-high 25 swings. Kori Moster was outstanding, contributing 24 digs and eight assists, while both setters - Kristen Kelsay (23 assists, eight digs) and Halle Peterson (20 assists, season-high 11 digs) had high dig totals as well.
MSU hit just .198 on the night, including a match-low .152 in the fourth and deciding set. The Illini hit .275 on the night, but hit .323 in the third and fourth sets combined to put the match away. While MSU out-blocked its hosts 12-9.5, 7.5 of the Illini blocks came in the latter half of the match. MSU did, however, have five blocks in the fourth set, but Illinois countered with three and a .275 hitting percentage.
Illinois built to a four-point lead at 10-6 in the opening set, then built it to a six-point advantage at 17-11, guided by Birks' five kills. For MSU, Fitterer - who hit nearly .800 on Friday at Northwestern, had three kills and two blocks to that point, while Wicinski had three kills, all on back row attacks. MSU was able to trim Illinois' lead to two at 20-18, forcing the home team into a timeout. The Illini came out of the timeout and got back-to-back kills from Birks and McMahon, but MSU got the sideout on an Illinois service error. That would be MSU's final point of the set, as the Illini finished it out with three straight points - two on MSU errors - to take the first game, 25-19.
MSU came out with a renewed fire in the second set, opening up a 12-3 lead. MSU used a 9-0 run to build the lead, coming on four Illinois errors and kills from five different MSU players. Illinois then countered with a 6-1 run of its own to carve into the lead, and eventully forced MSU into a timeout with the Spartans leading 15-11. The teams kept battling and trading points with big swings, but after the home team had cut it to three points (17-14), MSU put together a three-point run on two Illinois errors and a kill by Fitterer to lead 20-14. With MSU leading 23-17, the Spartans committed four errors, but held strong and got two more kills from Reinig to put the set away, 25-21 to even the match at 1-1.
With the teams tied 10-10 in the third set, the Illini used a 9-0 run - fueled early by back-to-back blocks by McMahon and Anna Dorn, then four straight MSU errors - to blow the set open, and force the Spartans into a timeout at 19-10. Despite outscoring its hosts 7-6 over the balance of the set, MSU fell by a 25-17 margin, as Illinois took a 2-1 match lead. The Illini had 4.5 blocks in the third set, while limiting MSU to just one. Both Fitterer and Wicinski had six kills each in the set, but UI standout Birks had eight to give her 17 for the match through three sets.
The home team jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the fourth set, using two-and three-point runs to pull away from the Spartans. MSU used a 4-1 run to pull within three points, as Wicinski had a block and a kill along with a couple impressive digs by Moster. Wicinski and Mathews combined on a block coming out of an Illinois timeout to pull within two, but committed two straight errors to give those points back. MSU kept chipping away at the lead, but the Illini used a 5-1 run to pull ahead 22-16. The home team got big at the net, as Anna Dorn had two big blocks to bring the the Illini to match point, but despite MSU's attempts to rally, Birks closed it out with a shot from the left side to allow Illinois the season split.
Birks finished with a match-high 21 kills for Illinois, and also had 10 digs. McMahon had 15 kills and six blocks, while Dorn had six each kills and blocks.
The Spartans will be back on the road to wrap up a four-game road trip next weekend. On Friday, MSU travels to Nebraska for an 8 p.m. ET match, then will wrap the trip with a game at Iowa on Saturday.