Dec. 7, 2013
Lexington, Ky. - Michigan State advanced into the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament with a 3-0 sweep of Mid-American Conference champion Ohio on Saturday, (25-22, 25-21, 25-19). The Spartans advance into the round of 32 for the third straight season, and improve to 22-11 on the year. Ohio concludes its campaign with a 27-6 overall record.
The Spartans will now play host Kentucky - No. 17 in this week's AVCA poll and the No. 15 seed in the Tournament - at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Kentucky is hosting next week's regional.
In the match, Lauren Wicinski had a 16-kill, four-ace, nine-dig performance while hitting .371; Alexis Mathews had 10 kills, hit .471 and had five blocks. Kelsey Kuipers had a career-best three solo blocks and had five total, while contributing four kills.
For Ohio, Katie Horton had 12 kills, while Kelly Lamberti was the only other Bobcat in double-digit kills, with 10 to go with four digs.
MSU out-blocked their opponents 11-2, and limited Ohio to hitting just .190 in the match. MSU hit .250, including a match-best .315 in the final set.
Wicinski's 16 kills moved her into 13th place all-time in the NCAA record book with 2,392 in her career. Mathews became MSU's career leader in block assists, as her five in the match gives her 557; her 618 career blocks ranks second at MSU and 12th in Big Ten history.
The Bobcats came out with a atart and took an early four-point lead (11-7), but MSU used a 4-0 run (on kills by Mathews and Wicinski, and two OU errors) to knot the score at 11 and forced Ohio into a time out. The MSU fought back into it, gaining its first lead of the game at 14-13 with a Wicinski ace; with the game tied at 14, MSU scored six of the next seven points - capped with a block at the left pin by Mathews and Reinig, and Ohio called its second time out of the set at 20-15 in favor of MSU. The timeout settled the Bobcats, who rallied for four straight out of the break to pull within a point at 20-19. MSU stopped the rally with a Reinig kill, traded points with OU to get to 21-20, then got back-to-back points on a Mathews kill and block (along with Fitterer) to push its lead to 23-20. A Alexis Pinson kill pulled Ohio back within two, but a Bobcat error gave the Spartans set point, and Wicinski and Kuipers finished off the set with a block at the left pin for a 25-21 victory.
The Spartans took a six-point lead in the early part of the second set (13-7), utilizing their size at the net to add four blocks onto their three from the opening frame. The Bobcats battled back into it with a 7-3 run, getting three kills from Lamberti and their first block of the day from Pinson and Katie Horton to make it 16-14 MSU. The Spartans responded with four straight points - a Wicinski ace and kill among them - to push back to a six-point advantage at 20-14. Leading 22-18 after a Kuipers kill, a big block by Reinig and Mathews, followed by a Reinig kill, gave the Spartans set point - but the Bobcats ripped off the next four points (greatly aided by three MSU errors) to pull within two points at 24-22. Mathews stopped the Ohio run with her ninth kill of the day to give MSU a 2-0 lead in the match.
In the third set, MSU had an early two-point advantage, (5-3), which was the largest lead for either team until MSU took a 17-15 lead on back-to-back Reinig kills. MSU pushed its lead to three (19-16) on a Reinig and Mathews block, MSU's 10th of the night. With the Spartans leading 19-17, the Bobcats committed back-to-back errors to push MSU's lead to four (21-17), a Horton kill brought Ohio back within three points, but Wicinski posted back-to-back kills, putting MSU back up by five. After another Horton kill, the Spartans closed it out on a kill by Allyssah Fitterer and a solo block by Kuipers.
The Spartans, now 22-11 on the season, will now play Kentucky at 4 p.m. on Sunday to advance to the regional next weekend. The Wildcats are hosting the regional at Memorial Coliseum.