Dec. 2, 2011
AUSTIN, Texas - The Michigan State volleyball team overcame a first set loss to beat Arizona, 3-1 in the NCAA Tournament First Round in Austin, Texas. The Spartans (22-11) were led by 22 kills from senior Kyndra Abron and advance to face No. 1 Texas, who defeated Texas State 3-0, in tomorrow's NCAA Second Round at 8 p.m. ET.
Abron tied her career high with 22 kills and hit .500, her third best mark of the season. Senior Jenilee Rathje and sophomore Alexis Matthews each had 10 kills, with Mathews also hitting .571 and blocking a team-high four attacks. Senior Natalie Emro had a team-best 30 assists and freshman Kori Moster led the backline with 18 digs.
"They came at us very strong game one and gave us everything we could handle," said head coach Cathy George. "We had to settle down our serve-receive and defensive game. I felt like we were all over the place. After we settled down we started to find our rhythm and started to use our physicality to start to move in the right direction. As the game went on they continued to challenge, they continued to come after us, but I think we responded well and we were able to come back and get the necessary points.
"We're an older team. We have five seniors and they're a young team. I know that we're physical in a lot of areas, and in some positions there were mismatches that worked in our favor."
The first set was tight early, but Arizona went on a run midway through the action and cruised to a 25-18 opening set win. With the set tied at 12, the Wildcats took the next four points to open a 16-12 lead. The Spartan could not get any closer, as Arizona took four of the final five points to win 25-18. Abron and Rathje led MSU with three kills apiece, but as a team, the Spartans hit only .178.
The Spartans came out swinging in the second set, even the match with a 25-17 set win. Michigan State hit .455 in the set, led by a 7-for-8 effort by Abron. The two teams matched points with seven ties up to a 7-7 score. MSU took the next four points on three kills and a block assist from Abron, to take control of the set. The margin remained the same until the Spartans ran off seven of the last nine points to claim the win.
Like the second set, the two schools battled throughout set three with no school leading by more than two and seeing 13 ties. However, with the set tied at 20, the Spartans took the final five points to win 25-20 and go ahead 2-1 in the match. Abron again led MSU with six kills, while Rathje bounced back with five kills in the third set.
The Spartans used a late run in the fourth set to clinch the match with a 25-21 victory. Again the first half of the set went back and forth, and Arizona opened a 15-13 lead. Six-straight points by the Spartans opened up their largest lead at 19-15. The Wildcats responded to tie the set at 20, but MSU took five of the last six points for the win. Abron led the Spartans for the fourth consecutive set with six kills.
Michigan State hit .299, while holding Arizona to a .204 mark. The match was extremely even all night with 39 ties and 17 lead changes over the four sets.
The Spartans improve their all-time NCAA record to 14-13 and advance to the second round for the first time since 2007.