Oct. 10, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - No. 25 Spartan volleyball returns home to host Northwestern on Friday, Oct. 12 and No. 22 Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 13, after completing a stretch of four straight road matches last weekend. Both conference matches will start at 6:30 p.m. at Jenison Field House and will be featured on SpartanSportsNetwork.com.
WATCH: Northwestern and Illinois Preview
Michigan State volleyball is helping to raise awareness for childhood cancer and is asking fans to wear pajamas to Friday's match against Northwestern to show their support to the thousands of children in our nation who are being treated for cancer. Participating fans will receive free admission to the match.
A Look at the Spartans
The Spartans are coming off a 1-1 road weekend and took down Wisconsin 3-1 on Oct. 5, before losing a heartbreaker the next night to No. 10 Minnesota, 3-2. Sophomore Taylor Galloway had a career high 16 kills to go along with 14 digs against the Badgers and Jazmine White led MSU with 10 kills and five service aces against Minnesota.
Junior Lauren Wicinski leads Michigan State on the outside and tops the conference in both points (5.20) and service aces per set (0.62). She is also third in the Big Ten in kills with 4.29 per set. Alexis Mathews is the anchor in the middle for the Spartans and she averages 1.35 blocks per set, good for third in the conference and is also sixth in the conference with a .390 hitting percentage. Sophomore captain Kori Moster reels in 4.60 digs per set, good for third in the Big Ten, as the Spartans libero, and also averages 0.37 service aces per set. At setter, Kristen Kelsay leads the Spartans with 7.21 assists per set and freshman Halle Peterson brings in 4.85 per set.
Michigan State head coach Cathy George is in her eighth season at the helm of the Spartans and has a career record of 501-331. MSU made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
Northwestern is 12-5 on the season and 1-5 in the conference thus far. The Wildcats were swept by both Penn State and Ohio State last weekend. Stephanie Holthus leads the Wildcats with 4.32 kills per set and Madalyn Shalter brings in 11.60 assists per set.
Series History: MSU trails the all-time series against Northwestern, 31-32.
Last Meeting: Michigan State defeated the Wildcats, 3-2, on Nov. 19, 2011.
Coach: Keylor Chan is in his 13th season at the helm of Northwestern and has 174 wins as head coach.
Illinois is 8-8 on the season and is coming off five-set losses to both Ohio State and Penn State last weekend. The Fighting Illini has face nine ranked opponents thus far. Illinois is led by Jocelynn Birk and her 4.08 kills per set. Annie Luhrsen averages 10.82 assists per set and Erin Johnson brings in 1.29 blocks per set.
Series History: Illinois leads the all-time series, 23-43.
Last Meeting: The Spartans defeated then-No. 7 Illinois, 3-1, on Nov. 18, 2011.
Coach: Kevin Hambly is in his fourth season at Wisconsin and has led the Illini to three straight Sweet 16's, including the national championship game last season.
PJammin with the Spartans
Against Northwestern on Friday night, fans that wear their pajamas will get into the match for free. Fans are being asked to come in their PJs in support of raising awareness for childhood cancer. Throughout this event, fans will be reminded about the amount of time that children with cancer must spend in their pajamas while fighting cancer and they will show their support to these children and their families in a very symbolic way.
Welcoming Back Alumni
Michigan State volleyball is welcoming back its alumni on Saturday night against Illinois with it being homecoming week at MSU. Between sets two and three, MSU volleyball alumni will be recognized on the court and some will be available after the match to meet with and sign autographs for fans.
AVCA Top 25 Rankings
Michigan State is ranked No. 25 this week in the AVCA coaches poll stayed at the same spot in the polls after going 1-1 over the weekend, defeating to Wisconsin, 3-1, and falling to No. 10 Minnesota, 3-2. The Spartans broke into the rankings on Sept. 17 and it was the first time being ranked since Oct. 11, 2009, at No. 18. MSU boasts a 159-59 record when ranked in the top 25.
A Tale of Two Seasons
After starting the season 12-0, MSU is 3-3 in its last six matches and has faced much tougher competition in the Big Ten season. Michigan State has battled a statistical letdown as well as the competition level in increased. MSU is hitting just .225 percent in conference play was averaging a mark above .300 in non-conference play. Michigan State has faced three ranked teams thus far in the conference and will face No. 22 Illinois this weekend at Jenison Field House.
Coaching Milestone for George
Head coach Cathy George became the 34th active coach to reach 500 career wins after MSU swept Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 29. George currently has a record of 501-331 during her 26 years of coaching and is in her eighth year at MSU. George has also compiled wins at North Dakota State, Texas-Arlington, and Western Michigan.
Leading the Big Ten
Michigan State leads the conference in service aces with 1.70 per set and is second in opponent hitting percentage with a .165 mark. The Spartans are also fourth in hitting percentage (.293), and third in kills with 14.49 per set.
Individually, Lauren Wicinski leads the Big Ten in service aces and points and is third in kills. Wicinski is averaging 4.29 kills per set, 0.62 service aces per set and 5.20 points per set.
Junior Alexis Mathews is third in the conference in blocks per set with 1.35 and is also sixth in hitting percentage with a mark of .390. Kori Moster is also third in digs per set (4.60) and fifth in service aces per set (0.37).
Hitting Percentage Tells the Story
The Spartans have been out hit in three matches the season and has lost each one of them. Michigan State dropped matches to then-No. 6 Nebraska and then-No. 17 Purdue, before losing a five-set heartbreaker at No. 10 Minnesota this past weekend. The Golden Gophers hit .293 percent and MSU hit just .201 percent.
Back at Home
The Spartans are fresh off a stretch of four straight road matches but will stay close to home in its next four matches. MSU hosts both Northwestern and Illinois this weekend and will travel to face in-state rival Michigan on Wednesday, Oct. 17 before returning home to host Ohio State on Saturday, Oct. 20.
First Set Success
Michigan State is 12-2 this season after winning the first set of the match. The Spartans two losses after going up 1-0 were both in five sets to Purdue and Minnesota. The Spartans led both Purdue and Minnesota 2-1 before losing five-set thrillers.
Michigan State is also 14-1 in matches decided by three games of less and its only loss of the season in three sets was at Nebraska on Sept. 26.
Defensive Player of the Week
Junior middle blocker Alexis Mathews was been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, as announced by the conference office on Monday, Sept. 17. Mathews averaged 1.70 blocks per set and also had 2.6 kills per set. She recorded 17 blocks at the Holiday Inn Charleston/Mt.Pleasant Invitational and was named to the named to the All-Tournament Team. Mathews is the second MSU player to receive conference recognition this season.
Sophomore Kori Moster garnered Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors on Monday, Sept. 3.
Quick Out of the Gate
Michigan State got out to a 12-0 start to open the season, its third best start in program history before losing to then-No. 17 Purdue, 3-2. The mark of 12-0 ties the 2009 start. The Spartans best start was in 1975 when they began the season at 19-0 mark in 1975. It tied the best start during head coach Cathy George's tenure.
Freshman Making an Impact
Setter Halle Peterson has been a huge addition to the Spartans offense and is averaging 4.85 assists per set for MSU. She recorded her first career double-double against IPFW with 27 assists and 12 digs and has notched double-digit assists in 16 of the 18 matches this season.