Nov. 29, 2008
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The 2008 Michigan State volleyball team (15-16, 7-13 Big Ten) saw its season come to an end after losing 3-1 (18-15, 25-20, 13-25, 23-25) to No. 12 Minnesota Saturday night at Jenison Field House. Freshman Becca Zlabis (Wheaton, Ill.) paced MSU with 15 kills on the evening. The 15 kills from Zlabis gives her 296 on the season, the fifth-most by an MSU freshman, tying Jenilee Rathje (Mount Pleasant, Mich.) from last season. Her 865 attacks ranks fourth amongst MSU freshmen.
The Spartans' lone senior, Heather McDaniel (Madison Heights, Mich.), did all she could to help MSU by registering 10 kills and nine digs, just missing the second double-double of her career.
"I thought we played up and down. There were times that we played really well and times that we didn't," head coach Cathy George said. "We gave Minnesota runs at times that put them back on their heals, but we just weren't able to sustain that pressure for long periods of time."
The loss drops the Spartans below .500, removing them from consideration for an NCAA Tournament berth. With a 7-13 conference mark, the Spartans finish the season tied for seventh place in the Big Ten with Wisconsin.
"We had a lot of adversity that came our way this season," George said. "There was a lot of positive things that came out of the year, but it was still a hard year for us because we did not win as much as we would have liked to."
MSU opened the first set by jumping out to a 3-1 lead after kills from Zlabis and McDaniel. The lead did not last long for the Spartans as Minnesota won 11 of the next 14 points as the Spartans committed five attack errors in that span. MSU continued to struggle with its attack as they would lose the set 25-18, despite winning nine of the last 14 points. The Spartan block was a bright spot in the first frame as MSU tallied 3.5, highlighted by solo blocks from Mischelle Nelson (Naperville, Ill.) and Vanessa King (Spring Lake, Mich.). MSU hit .094 in the opening frame, but found momentum at the end of the set.
The second set opened with the Spartans still struggling to find their attack. With five attack errors in the first 14 points, MSU found themselves down 9-5. After a time out, the Spartans ran off 13 of the next 17 points, building an 18-13 lead. Freshmen Kyndra Abron (Livonia, Mich.) and Natalie Emro (Wildwood, Mo.) led the Spartans during that span. Abron posted three kills while Emro added two during the run. The Spartans retained the lead and won the set as McDaniel tooled a double block at the middle of the net to win the set, 25-20. MSU scored 20 of the last 36 points in the set.
As a team, MSU hit .239 as each attacker finished in positive numbers, highlighted by Zlabis who tallied five kills while hitting .571. Abron led the team with six kills in the frame. McDaniel tallied seven of her nine total digs in the second while Emro passed out 15 assists.
The third frame was very similar to the first as the Spartans struggled with their attack. Hitting -.081, MSU dropped the set 25-13, despite the defensive efforts of both Emro and libero Allyson Karaba (Muskegon, Mich.), who posted seven and six digs, respectively.
With their season on the line, the Spartans laid it all on the line in the fourth set. Zlabis and the Spartans looked to be in control of the set after building a 13-5 lead. But once again, MSU saw its errors come in bunches, allowing Minnesota to close the gap, tying the score at 18. After Minnesota climbed on top at 19-18, MSU was able to regain the lead after a kill and an ace from McDaniel on consecutive plays. At 22-20 in favor of MSU, the Spartans scored just one more point as Minnesota took the frame, 25-23, ending the Spartans' season.
Emro finished the match with 43 assists and 15 digs, giving her the fifth double-double of her career. Karaba finished the match with 19 digs, giving her 518 on the season, the second most in school history. King finishes the season hitting .348, the fourth-best single-season hitting percentage in school history. Her .308 career hitting percentage ranks her fourth all-time as well. Emro's 1,245 assists ranks her fourth all-time on the freshmen record list and her 10.55 per set ranks her fourth in the Big Ten. She is the only freshman to rank in the top half of any statistical category in the Big Ten.