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Spartans Fall to No. 1 Penn State in NCAA Regional Final

Dec. 9, 2017

Box Score | PDF Box Score: PSU 3, MSU 0

WATCH: NCAA Tournament Regional Final Highlights vs. Penn State

 Michigan State Women's Volleyball Online
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No. 12 Michigan State's magical 2017 season came to a conclusion on Saturday evening, as the Green and White fell to No. 1 overall seed Penn State 3-1 victory (23-25, 17-25, 26-28). MSU, which was appearing in the NCAA Regional Final for the first time since 1996, put up a valiant effort vs. the Nittany Lions, but came up against another senior-laden team and fell just short of the Final Four.

MSU finishes its season with a 24-9 record on the year. Penn State is 33-1 and will play Nebraska in the NCAA semifinals next week.

Rachel Minarick became MSU's all-time assist leader, as her 34 helpers pushed her career total to 4,581 and past Nikki Colson (4,563, 2000-03). Autumn Bailey tied her season best with 18 kills and hit .333, securing a double-double with 12 digs. Holly Toliver just missed a double-double with nine kills, 10 digs, four assists, three aces, and four blocks, and Alyssa Garvelink moved into third place all-time at MSU in block assists with six kills and six blocks on the night.

For the Nittany Lions, Simone Lee had 12 kills , 10 digs, and three blocks; Haleigh Washington had 10 blocks but just five kills and hit .176. Heidi Thelen had nine kills and hit a match-best .643.

The teams engaged in a tight first set battle, with Penn State taking a 25-23 win after battling back from a four-point deficit. The momentum carried over for the Nittany Lions in the second set, who built a lead as many as 10 points. The mountain was a bit too tall to climb for the Spartans, who did mount a late comeback and make it 23-17 before the Nittany Lions closed it out on back-to-back kills. MSU trailed in the third set by as many as five points, but battled back into it to force extra points. The Spartans held set point at 25-24 in an effort to push it to a fourth set, but the Nittany Lions closed out the win on a 4-1 run to take the third set 28-26 and seal their spot in next week's Final Four.

"This is an incredibly special team that accomplished a great amount by playing together and for one another. I could not be prouder to be their coach and to see the growth of each of our players over the course of the season. Tonight wasn't our night, but it does not diminish what they were able to accomplish. We are so thankful to our seniors for the examples they set and for leaving it all out on the floor tonight. They have left a legacy in bringing our program to the Elite Eight. We feel that we have a very bright outlook going forward with the underclassmen and we're excited about the future they have in our program."

- Head Coach Cathy George


  • Autumn Bailey posted 18 kills and 12 digs, recording her 12th double-double of the season. She hit .333.
  • Holly Toliver had nine kills and 10 digs, just missing a double-double. She added a season-best four assists, four blocks, and three service aces.
  • Alyssa Garvelink had six blocks and six kills,
  • Rachel Minarick became MSU's all-time assist leader in the second set on a helper on a Holly Toliver kill, MSU's 12th point of the frame.


  • Garvelink's 503 career block assists moved her into third place in the MSU record book.
  • Rachel Minarick finished her career with 4,581 assists, and is now MSU's all-tme leader.
  • The Spartans lost two sets by two points, and the final set went to extra points - the fourth time in 11 sets with Penn State that a set required extra points.
  • Megan Tompkins had five kills on 12 swings without an error (.417) and had a pair of blocks.
  • Jamye Cox had 17 digs and two assists and a kill. She finished the season with 388 digs, the second-most for a freshman in school history behind Kori Moster in 2011.


  • SET ONE: The teams treated the crowd to some lengthy rallies and big swings in the opening points, along with an opening ace from Rachel Minarick and one from Holly Toliver that tied things at 5-5. Three straight points from the home team followed as the Nittany Lions opened up an 8-5 lead, but Tompkins delivered on the slide to stop the run. MSU battled back into it with a 6-2 run to turn the three-point deficit into an 11-10 lead, capped with kills by Toliver and Garvelink. MSU held a 15-13 lead at the media time out, and took its largest lead at 18-14 after Bailey sandwiched kills around a block with Tompkins. A service error and hitting error by MSU - its first of the night - followed by a Simone Lee kill gave the home team a 3-0 run that allowed PSU back within a point at 18-17, and MSU called its first time out to regroup. Haleigh Washington put up back-to-back blocks to take her fteam from down a point to up 20-19 , and a tool off the MSU block made it a two-point game, 21-19, and the Spartans called their second time out. MSU tied things at 22 on consecutive kills from Garvelink and Toliver, but two straight Spartan errors right after put Penn State at set point. A Frantti service error made it a one-point deficit, but Lee finished it off for the home team with a big kill. The Nittany Lions hit .275 in the opening set, and MSU's late errors cost them with a .163 percentage. Toliver led the Spartans with five kills, while Bailey posted four without an error (4-0-11). Both Frantti and Lee had six kills for the home team.  
  • SET TWO: The home team used the momentum from the late run in the first set to jump out to a 5-1 edge in the second, getting a pair of kills from Lee and two blocks from Abby Detering and Washington. A 6-1 run developed into an eight-point edge (12-4) and Penn State's largest of the night , as every bounce seemed to be going the Nittany Lions' way and MSU called time out. A 3-0 Spartan run trimmed the lead down to five (12-7), and even though the squad had regrouped it was still a battle to get within striking distance after falling into a large deficit. Haleigh Washington recorded her eighth block of the night to give her team a 21-12 lead, and a big swing by Lee made it a 10-point edge at 22-12. The Spartans refused to roll over, and got two blocks from Garvelink and two kills from Bailey to make it 23-16, at which point the Nittany Lions called time out to try to halt the momentum. Bailey connected for a third straight kill to trim it to six, but Weiskircher and Thelen closed out the set by recording the next two kills to take a 2-0 match lead. The Spartans fell victim to PSU's block party in the set - the Nittany Lions put up eight blocks in the frame, so while MSU had only two unforced errors, it was saddled with a 11-10-39 hitting line (.026). Bailey had five kills and five digs in the frame. Washington had six blocks (one solo) to help her team build and hold that sizable lead, while Lee had a team-best five kills.  
  • SET THREE: A pair of early MSU hitting errors helped Penn State jump out to a 7-2 lead. The Spartans refused to let the set get away from them and fought back within two at 9-7 as the Spartans spread out their offense and got kills from four different players. MSU fell behind by as many as five, but stayed in the battle. The Spartans cut it to three with a Megan Tompkins service ace that made it 20-17, but PSU came back with two of the next three points to make it 22-18. Kills by Bailey and Kranda made it a 22-20, and Penn State called time out; out of the break, Kranda served up an ace to trim it to one. Nia Reed and Bailey traded kills, which kept MSU within a point as the Nittany Lions called time out with a one-point lead and match point. The battle of wills eventually went to the home team, as a Thelen kill, followed by a Thelen/Gorell block and an MSU error gave PSU a 3-0 victory. Bailey had nine kills and hit .364 in the final frame, as MSU hit a match-best .231. Penn State also put up a match-best hitting percentage in the third (.317), and got five kills from Thelen and four from Washington.


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