Birmingham, Alabama -- - Michigan State opened its 2014 season on Friday afternoon, downing Southeastern Louisiana 3-0 at the UAB/Samford Invitational. MSU improves to 29-13 all-time in season-opening games, which includes a 9-2 record under current head coach Cathy George. The Spartans have started off the season with a win in each of the last six seasons, and have won the last five openers by 3-0 margins. In addition, MSU allowed a combined 40 points over three sets to SELA, the fourth-fewest allowed in school history in three sets in the 25-point format.
"I think that one of the great things was that we were able to get our players into a game situation, which they are so anxious to do after more than three weeks of only playing against their teammates," said George. "Our freshmen, I think, really wanted to come out and make a strong impression - and with three of them starting, both Holly Toliver and Alyssa Garvelink hit better than .400, and Rachel [Minarick] had 23 assists. Its opening weekend, so there's a lot of work that we need to continue to do and things that we need to work on. I think today is a good jumping-off point for us as we look ahead to a game tonight against UAB."
Both freshman Holly Toliver and sophomore Allyssah Fitterer had double-digit kills, as Toliver had a match-high 14 kills (.400) and also had two digs and a block. Fitterer hit a match -best .562 with 10 kills on 16 swings, and added six digs and a pair of blocks. Chloe Reinig had nine kills against just one error with two blocks as well. Drawing a starting assignment, Alyssa Garvelink had five kills and hit .557, en route to the Spartans hitting .385 as a team.
Defensively, Kori Moster had 17 of MSU's 42 digs, while Jazmine White, Autumn Christenson, and Fitterer each had two blocks. Freshman setter Rachel Minarick had 23 assists through the first two sets, while Halle Peterson played the third set and had 10 assists.
The Spartans set a tone early in the first set, going on a 18-4 run break open a 4-3 game, and coasted to a 25-8 victory. Three of the eight points for the Lions in the opening frame came from MSU errors, as the Spartans dictated play. In the second set, SELA had a mini-run where it had a run of three straight points with Mikayla Shippy at the service line, cutting into MSU's lead, but the Spartans were able regain control and put the set away with a 25-11 decision.
MSU switched up its lineup in the final set, and the sophomores had the big numbers, as Fitterer and Reinig each had five kills and just one error in the frame. SELA was able to string together three straight points twice in the third, but the Spartans wouldn't allow any big runs. MSU trailed for the first time in the match when it fell behind by at 8-9 and had its largest deficit of the day at 9-11, but MSU strung together a few two- and three-point runs to regain control and close out the match. After hitting .571 and .560 in the first two sets, MSU had nine attack errors (of 10 total on the day) in that final frame and hit just .132 in the third.
MSU had six service aces on the day, compared to just three for the Lions. MSU also had 10 blocks to SELA's four.
MSU is back in action later this evening when it takes on host school UAB at 8 p.m. ET. A live video webstream will be available at www.msuspartans.com