Nov. 23, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. - - In their final home match of the season, the Michigan State Spartans lost a tough four-setter to No. 11 Minnesota (23-25, 19-25, 25-18, 25-27) Saturday night at Jenison Field House. Senior Lauren Wicinski had 21 kills to lead both teams, but the Spartans hit only .208 as a group for the night, and fell to 20-10 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten conference.
MSUs seniors truly led the way in their final home match of the season. In addition to her 21 kills, Wicinski had three aces and eight digs; Kristen Kelsay had 29 assists and 15 digs for a double-double, while Alexis Mathews had eight kills and seven blocks and Kelsey Kuipers hit .429. Junior libero Kori Moster had 25 digs, while freshmen Allyssah Fitterer and Chloe Reinig each had 11 kills (Reinig added six blocks).
The four Spartan Seniors were honored in a post-match ceremony. The class of 2013 will be the first class in a decade to make three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In four seasons, they own an 82-48 overall record and have won nine in-season tournaments. This class has helped defeat eight top-ten teams, as well as securing the program's first-ever victory over a team ranked No. 1 when MSU went into State College earlier this season and defeated Penn State for the first time since 2002. Last season, they went into UCLA, the defending national champion, and downed the Bruins to bring the Spartans into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.
The first set was a see-saw battle, as neither team could pull ahead by more than two points. The Gophers used a four-point run to go from a two-point deficit to a 12-10 lead. A Fitterer kill halted the Minnesota run, and then Wicinski served three straight aces - all at different players - to give MSU a two-point edge. With the teams tied at 18, the Gophers went on a 3-1 run, using a pair of blocks by Hannah Tapp and a Dixon kill, to pull ahead 21-19. MSU called timeout, and stopped UM's run with a 3-0 streak of its own, getting kills from Mathews, Wicinski, and Taylor Galloway to take a 22-21 lead. A MSU error allowed the Gophers to knot the score again at 22, and Wittman's kill put Minnesota ahead 23-22; the Spartans countered with a Wicinski kill to knot the score for the 13th time in the match. Back-to-back errors by the Spartans allowed Minnesota to take the first set, 25-23.
The teams traded points throughout the early part of the second set, until a three-point run for the Gophers - fueled by back-to-back kills by Santana - opened up an 11-8 lead. A Wicinski kill halted the run, but two straight MSU errors forced the Spartans into a time out trailing 13-9. MSU cut it to 13-11 on kills by Mathews and Kuipers, but the visitors then went on a 5-1 run, extending their lead to 18-12 and forcing MSU into another time out. After the break, MSU got back-to-back points, to pull within four; the Gophers put together a 6-0 run to lead 23-16. The Spartans went on a 4-1 run to pull within 24-19, but a Santana kill sealed the second-set victory for Minnesota, giving the road team a 2-0 lead.
After the break, MSU opened up the third set with a 5-0 lead, aided by two Minnesota errors. After a timeout, Minnesota scored four of the next six points to pull within two at 6-4, then eventually rallied to tie the set at 10-10. MSU took seven of the next 11 points, with two kills each from Galloway and Chloe Reinig and a big solo block by Mathews to give MSU a 17-14 lead that led to a Minnesota time out. Out of the break, the Spartans continued to play aggressively, getting an ace from Moster, a block by Mathews and Wicinski, and a kill by Fitterer as the home team took its largest lead of the match, 22-15. Back-to-back kills by Wittman brought the Gophers back within five (22-17), but a resilient MSU squad took three of the next four points. A Wicinski kill gave MSU set point, but she erred on her ensuing service opportunity and got Minnesota the side out. Fitterer finished off the set with a swing from the right pin to give MSU the third-set victory.
MSU used four-and five-point rallies to build to a 14-6 edge in the fourth set, but the Gophers cut into the advantage by scoring six of the next seven points to make it 15-12, and MSU called a time out. From there, MSU was able to build its lead back to four points at 20-16, but the Gophers cut it back to two at 20-18, then scored four of the next six to tie the game at 22. The teams traded points to tie it at 23, and an MSU error gave the Gophers match point at 24-23, but the Spartans clawed back. Michigan State fought off one more Minnesota match point, before an attack error by MSU allowed the Gophers to seal the fourth set 27-25 and sweep the two meetings of the season between the teams.
MSU will play its final two regular-season matches on the road, at Michigan on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and next Saturday at No. 25 Purdue.