Nov. 26, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State volleyball team (21-11, 10-10 Big Ten) closed out the 2011 regular season on Saturday, Nov. 26 with a 3-1 loss to No. 9 Penn State (23-7, 16-4 Big Ten) inside Jenison Field House. Saturday marked final regular season match at home for MSU's five seniors - Kyndra Abron, Natalie Emro, Jenilee Rathje, Carli Weiler and Becca Zlabis - as each were honored at the conclusion of the match.
Rathje paced the Green and White offensively, while Emro and freshman Kori Moster were the top defenders. Rathje ended the night with 17 kills, with Emro netting four blocks and Moster 15 digs.
In one of the closest sets in recent memory, the Spartans dropped the opening set, 27-25, after having three set points earlier in the set. After falling behind 5-1 to open the match, the Spartans rattled off four straight to tie the opening frame at five. The two teams began to trade points before MSU held its first lead of the match at 13-12. Michigan State continued its rally, forcing a PSU timeout at 18-15. The Green and White remained in control of the set, causing the final Penn State timeout several points later, 21-18. MSU rolled on, forcing its first set point at 24-22. The Nittany Lions, however, got the next point, forcing the first Green and White, 24-23. PSU tied the set on the ensuing point, but MSU against forced set point at 25-24. Penn State responded by taking the final three to win the set. Abron led both teams in kills for the opening set with six kills. Moster was the top defender with seven digs.
MSU responded strong in set two to tie the match, 1-1 prior to intermission. The Spartans took the frame by nine points over PSU, 25-16. The Green and White came out hot, taking the first three points, however Penn State responded with the following five points for the 5-3 lead. PSU's lead grew to six at 12-6, but MSU followed up with 11 of the last 13, bringing the score to 17-14. Michigan State remained in the driver's seat, growing its lead with every point. The Spartans were led by seniors Rathje and Zlabis with the final five kills in the set for the Green and White, sparking a 5-1 run to end the set. Rathje led both teams with five kills, with Weiler backing the Spartan defense with five digs.
Penn State responded following intermission by taking the next two sets of the contest for the 3-1 win. The Spartans looked to continue their magic from set two by taking the first three points of the frame. Penn State began to slowly chip away at the Green and White lead, taking the next three to tie the set at three. MSU returned to the three-point advantage at 9-6, before the Nittany Lions managed to tie the set at 12. PSU took its first lead of the third set with the corresponding point, and never looked back, ending the set on a 16-4 run. The Nittany Lions gained the 2-1 advantage after they took the final six and bring the score to 25-16. Zlabis was the top Spartan in set three with her three kills. Zlabis was joined by classmate Rathje with three digs, each.
The Spartans came out flat in the final set, falling behind early to the Nittany Lions, 8-1. The PSU advantage quickly became nine, as the Green and White called a timeout at 12-3. MSU came out of the break hot, taking eight of 10 to pull within three at 14-11. The Nittany Lions remained points, and pushed its lead to 10 to conclude the final set, 25-15. Rathje was to top force for both teams, as she tallied six kills, doubling the closest attacker for both squads. Moster returned as the top defender with her seven digs.
Emro was the top ball distributor for the Green and White, tallying 21 assists against PSU. Sophomore Kristen Kelsay also chipped in 10 assists for the Spartan offense. Abron was the next top attacker for MSU with her nine kills, while Zlabis recorded eight, moving her within 10 of 1,000 in her career. Sophomore Alexis Mathews also chipped in four blocks and Zlabis tallied two.
MSU will now away its fate in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The NCAA will announce the tournament field tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds are scheduled for the Weekend of Dec. 1-3.