Nov. 19, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State volleyball team (21-9, 10-8 Big Ten) pulled out a gritty five-set win over Northwestern (15-14, 6-12 Big Ten), 3-2, on Saturday, Nov. 19. After dropping the first two sets, the Spartans rattled off the next three behind senior Kyndra Abron's career-high 22 kills.
"This may be one of the grittiest wins we have seen in a while," said MSU head coach Cathy George. "For the team to have the will to come back from being down 2-0, truly speaks to the leadership on this team. After coming off the high of the upset last night against Illinois, it was important for us to rebound with a solid win. Now, it's time to celebrate tonight's win, and prepare for the final week of the regular season against Michigan and Penn State next week."
Michigan State posted its third-straight conference victory for the first time since the 2007 season, when the Green and White won three straight to close out the season. The win also gives the Spartans their most regular-season wins since 2001 when they also netted 21 wins. MSU out blocked Northwestern, 19- 11.5, the most blocks for the Spartans this season, and the most since 2000, when they recorded 21 against Michigan on Nov. 8.
Northwestern took the seesaw opening set by a score of 25-23. Senior Jenilee Rathje was the top attacker for both teams with five kills, but the team's 14 errors proved to be costly. MSU came out flat in the early moments of the match, falling behind 6-1. After three straight points came from Rathje, the Spartans were back within two at 6-4. After a 4-0 run, the Green and White pulled within one, 10-9. Michigan State gained its first lead of the match with the score 17-16, forcing a Northwestern timeout. The Spartans took seven of eight for its largest lead of the set, three, at 19-16, but the Wildcats responded to tie up the set at 21. Northwestern continued its momentum to claim the opening set after a Spartan attack error.
The errors continued to haunt the Spartans in set two, as they netted 11 in the 25-22 second set loss. Abron led the Green and White with a set-high four kills. After allowing the Wildcats the initial 3-2 lead, the Spartans responded to boast a 6-4 advantage. MSU's lead grew to as many as three at 10-7 before nine of 10 went to Northwestern, giving it a 16-11 lead. Michigan State clawed back to gain the lead late in the set, 22-21, however the Wildcats took the final four to earn the 2-0 lead.
The Spartans rallied back in set three with a 25-22 win, led by Abron's six kills. Abron was in on three of the first five points for the Green and White, aiding in the 5-1 lead. Northwestern responded with seven of nine for its first lead at 8-7. Michigan State responded with the 12-10 lead, prior the Wildcats posting its final lead at 20-18. The Spartans dug deep to rattle off seven of nine for the set, making the match 2-1.
With momentum in the hands of the Green and White, it used 7.5 blocks to tie the match at 2-2 following a 25-18 win. Rathje returned to the kill lead column with a team-best five kills. Freshman Jazmine White was in on each of the team's first three points on consecutive blocks, 3-0. Northwestern was forced to call its first timeout of the set, as the Spartans lead 9-4. MSU forced the final Wildcat timeout of the set at 17-12. Michigan State completed the wire-to-wire lead with its largest of seven at 23-16 before the set concluded on a Wildcat attack error.
Michigan State carried its energy and comeback into the fifth, posting a 15-13 fifth-set win. Abron, again, led the MSU attack with five kills. The Spartans fought through seven ties and two lead changes for the fifth-set win. The Green and White took a 4-1 lead to open the set, however Northwestern remained strong, gaining its lone lead at 9-8. Michigan State showed its leadership and rallied back to take the set following a service ace by freshman Kori Moster.
Rathje joined Abron in double-digit kill numbers with her 17. Moster continues to set MSU freshman records, as she, again, anchored the Spartans with a match-high 18 digs. Also reeling in double-digit digs were seniors Becca Zlabis and Carli Weiler. Rathje also had double-digit digs with 13, giving her the eighth double-double of her season, and 16th in her career. At the net, White tied her career-high blocks mark with eight against the Wildcats, and was joined by sophomore Alexis Mathews with eight, too. Both Abron and classmate Natalie Emro chipped in an additional six blocks each. Emro also dished out a team-high 31 assists, while sophomore Kristen Kelsay chipped in 16.
The Spartans enter the final week of the regular season next week, when they travel to Michigan on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m., before hosting Penn State on senior night at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26.