Nov. 29, 2017
No. 12 Michigan State has earned an at-large bid to the 2017 NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament and will take on No. 25 Missouri State in the first round in Omaha, Nebraska on Friday. Games will be played at D.J. Sokol Arena inside the Wayne and Eileen Ryan Athletic Center on the Creighton campus.
MSU will have a radio broadcast of all matches - home and away - throughout the rest of the season. John Kreger returns behind the mic for the call on SpartanSportsNetwork.com.
Both matches will have a live video webstream on Fox Sports Go this weekend, and live statistics for both matches will also be available. Links for both will be on MSUSpartans.com.
The 2017 Spartans finished the regular season with a 21-8 overall record, and were 14-6 for a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten Conference.
The Spartans split last week's action - a 3-1 loss at No. 16 Purdue before rebounding with a 3-0 sweep of Indiana in Bloomington in the final night of the regular season.
The Big Ten Conference sent eight teams into the NCAA Tournament field. The Big Ten has three teams seeded (No. 1 Penn State, No. 5 Nebraska, No. 7 Minnesota) and also got the Spartans, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, and Michigan into the 64-team field.
Michigan State is making its 20th overall NCAA Tournament appearance, and earned its seventh consecutive at-large bid to the Championship, the second-longest streak in school history. MSU made it to the second round in 2011, 2014, and 2015, and advanced to the Sweet 16 both 2012 and 2013. MSU made 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament fields from 1994-2003.
MSU is making its 10th NCAA appearance in the 13-year tenure of Spartan head coach Cathy George. George owns a 10-9 record in NCAA Tournament games as the Spartan mentor, and is 16-14 overall in 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament in her career.
MSU has won its first-round NCAA Tournament matchup in each of the last six seasons.
MSU's streak of seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is the third-longest in the Big Ten, behind Penn State and Nebraska. In addition, MSU, Nebraska, and Penn State are the only teams to finish .500 or better in Big Ten play in each of the last seven seasons (2011-17).
MSU had 10 NCAA Tournament teams on its 2017 schedule. The Spartans went 5-7 against eight teams in the tournament field, but had its matches vs.. American and Florida in September wiped out due to Hurricane Irma.
The Spartans match up with Missouri Valley Conference champions Missouri State. The 25th-ranked Bears have won 21 consecutive matches, the third-longest streak in school history and longest since 1975. Missouri State boasts the MVC Player of the Year in Lily Johnson (4.59 K/s, .259, 3.96 D/s), the Libero of the Year in Emily Butters, and the Coach of the Year in Melissa Stokes, who is in her 22nd year at the helm.
MSU is 1-5 all-time against Missouri State, winning the most recent matchup 3-0 on Aug. 31, 2007 in the Spartan Invitational. The first four meetings (between the teams took place between 1976-81, all 2-0 victories for the Bears; Missouri State also won 3-1 in 1987 at the Kansas Invitational.
Should Michigan State advance to Saturday's second round, it would be the first-ever meeting in school history with Creighton or Coastal Carolina.
No. 15 Creighton earned the overall No. 9 seed in the Tournament, and hosts this weekend's action. The Bluejays defeated Marquette 3-2 in the BIGEAST Tournament final to earn the Conference's autobid. Creighton is led by three-time National Coach of the Year Kirsten Bernthal Booth, who is in her 15th year at the school. Creighton had five women earn All-BIG EAST honors, including first-team selections Lydia Dimke (10.78 A/s, 2.58 D/s), Marysa Wilkinson (2.85 K/s, 0.93 Blk/s, .370 Hit%), Jaali Winters (3.41 K/s, 2.82 D/s) and BIG EAST Libero of the Year Brittany Witt (4.30 D/s.). Taryn Kloth (3.05 K/s.) was named Second Team All-BIG EAST and was the Tournament MVP.
Jozsef Forman is in his sixth year as head coach of Coastal Carolina, which stands at 20-7 and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The Chanticleers feature six-rotation standout Leah Hardeman (4.62 K/s, 3.01 D/s, .301 Hit%), Sara Booth splits time at setter and averages 7.24 assists per set in CCU's 6-2 offense. Sydney Alvis is the team's libero and averages 4.16 digs per frame.
MSU posted a 21-8 overall record in the regular season, the seventh 20-win season in Cathy George's tenure.
In 2017, MSU finished 14-6 in the Big Ten - the most B1G wins in a season in the Cathy George era and fourth-most in program history. MSU won a program-record 19 B1G games in 1995, 18 in 1996, and 15 in 1998. The Spartans won 13 games in both 2001 and 2016.
Fourth place was MSU's highest Big Ten finish since 2001. MSU was one game behind Minnesota (15-5). Penn State and Nebraska (19-1) shared the regular-season crown.
With 27 Big Ten wins over the last two seasons, its the highest Big Ten win total since the 1997 and 1998 teams combined for 27. The school record is 37 wins in two seasons (1995 and 1996), followed by 30 wins in 1995 and 1996, and 28 victories in 1994 and 1995.
MSU owned an 11-2 record at home in 2017, with the lone losses to No. 1 Penn State (Nov. 1) and No. 7 Nebraska (Oct. 24). The Spartans are 6-6 in road matches, and a perfect 4-0 in neutral-site matchups.
With three wins over top 10 teams so far this season, it is the most top-10 victories in a single season in school history.
MSU has not suffered back-to-back losses this season, with a perfect 8-0 record in matches after a setback.
Michigan State fell two spots to No. 12 in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) national poll. MSU spent seven consecutive weeks in the AVCA poll at No. 10 or higher (Oct. 9 - Nov. 20), MSU's longest stay in the Top 10 since the 1996 season.
Six Big Ten programs earned spots in the latest AVCA coaches poll: No. 1 Penn State, No. 5 Nebraska, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 12 MSU, and No. 16 Purdue. Illinois and Michigan are among the teams receiving votes.
The Spartans went 7-2 in non-conference action, dropping true road contests at Georgia Tech and (RV) Notre Dame. The Spartans won two of the three tournaments they played, and had one entire weekend of games (at No. 2 Florida, and against American and UNC-Greensboro) washed out due to Hurricane Irma.
Florida sits at No. 2 in the RPI, while American (24-7, 13-1 Conference) earned the Patriot League autobid to the NCAA Tournament and will take on No. 13 seed BYU.
Eleven Big Ten volleyball teams are ranked in the top 52 of the NCAA RPI through Nov. 20, including nine of the top 46: No. 1 Penn State, No. 6 Nebraska, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 18 Wisconsin, No. 23 MSU, No. 25 Purdue, No. 26 Illinois, No. 29 Michigan, No. 44 Ohio State, No. 50 Iowa, and No. 52 Maryland.
In terms of this weekend's opponents, Missouri State checked in at No. 36 in the RPI, Creighton is No. 10, and Coastal Carolina No. 74.
MSU owns three wins vs. RPI Top 25 teams: Minnesota, and Wisconsin twice. MSU lost twice to No. 1 Purdue and No. 5 Nebraska, and then once to No. 25 Purdue.
The Spartans have seven wins against teams in the 26-50 RPI group: No. 28 Illinois, No. 30 Michigan, No. 42 Ohio State, No. 46 Iowa, and MSU had two wins over No. 52 Maryland and one over No. 53 Auburn, who were in the RPI top 50 in the penultimate week of the season.
The Big Ten is once again the pacesetter in Division I volleyball, despite losing the most 2016 All-Americans (9) to graduation of any conference in the country. The Big Ten returned 17 2016 All-Americans, six more than the Big 12 (11) and seven more than the Pac-12 and SEC (10 each).
The Big Ten went a combined 128-27 in non-conference action (.826), just edging out the Pac-12 (104-22, .825). The SEC also won more than 100 games, going 105-40 (.724).
The Spartans placed four athletes on the All-Big Ten teams, which were announced on Tuesday. MSU had four selections for just the fourth time in program history, and the most since the 2000 season. The Spartans had multiple First Team All-Big Ten selections for the first time since 1995 and 1996, when three Spartans made the first team in each season.
MSU ranks in the top 26 nationally in four categories: ninth in aces (1.71/s), 17th in kills (14.33/s), 25th in assists (13.31/s), and 20th in hitting percentage (.272).
The Spartans lead the Big Ten and rank eighth nationally in service aces (1.71 per set). MSU boasts three individuals among the league's top 10 in aces per set (Holly Toliver, Rachel Minarick, and Brooke Kranda).
MSU posted 11 blocks in its four-set loss at Purdue, the Spartans' Big Ten season high. The Spartans rank eighth in the league in blocking (2.22/s).
The Spartans are second in the Big Ten with 14.33 kills per set, which also ranks 17th nationally. MSU's 14.33 kill per set average is its highest in the 25-point rally scoring era (since 2008). MSU's .272 hitting percentage is also the highest in the program since the 2006 team hit .275.
With 14.80 digs per set, the Spartans are third in the B1G rankings. MSU has five players averaging between 2.22 and 3.24 digs per set.
MSU continues to have a well-distributed offense. The Spartans have four players averaging between 2.55 and 3.53 kills per frame.
MSU has hit .300 or better 11 times in 20 Big Ten matches, and five times in the last seven matches. MSU's two lowest hitting performances in B1G play came vs. Nebraska (.147 on the road and .144 at home), while its high was .398 vs. Northwestern on Nov. 11. Seven of MSU's .300 hitting performances were .348 or better.
MSU went 9-1 in three-set matches in Big Ten play, with the lone loss at Michigan on Nov. 15. MSU's final two matches were four-set affairs, where MSU owns a 4-5 record. MSU's only five-setter in Big Ten play came in the opening match of the B1G season at Wisconsin.
The Spartan senior class was the No. 6 recruiting class in the country back in 2014, while the current freshman class was ranked No. 9 this past summer by PrepVolleyball.
Cathy George is the third Big Ten head coach to amass 600+ wins, along with Penn State's Russ Rose (1,242) and Wisconsin's John Cook (655). She ranks 19th among active coaches in coaching victories, and 50th all-time in Division I history.
Michigan State averaged 3,583 fans for Big Ten matches at Jenison Field House. MSU currently ranks eighth in Division I in both overall (40,834) and average attendance (3,141).
The All-Big Ten teams were released on Tuesday, and Michigan State placed four players on the teams two teams: Autumn Bailey and Alyssa Garvelink were First Team selections, while Rachel Minarick and Holly Toliver were Honorable Mention picks. In addition, Abby Monson earned the Sportsmanship Award. Bailey was one of 10 unanimous selections.
Bailey, Garvelink, and Minarick all earned All-Big Ten honors for the second time in their careers, and Toliver earned her first post-season nod. Garvelink was MSU's first two-time First Team selection since Lauren Wicinski in 2012 and 2013 and the ninth player in school history to be named to the first team multiple times. Bailey and Minarick both earned Honorable Mention kudos in 2016.
Bailey earned First Team All-B!G EAST honors in 2013 and 2014 at Marquette, making her a three-time First Team All-Conference honoree in her career.
Rachel Minarick and Alyssa Garvelink are both CoSIDA Academic All-District honorees, as announced on Thursday, Nov. 16. Minarick boasts a 3.97 cumulative GPA as a Kinesiology major. She is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honoree, and last year earned CoSIDA Academic All-Region kudos as well. She advances to the national ballot.
Garvelink is a two-time Academic All-B1G honoree who owns a 3.36 GPA as a Communications major.
The Spartans had just two Big Ten Players of the Week in 2017. Autumn Bailey shared Defensive Player of the Week honors with Minnesota's Molly Lohman on Sept. 25 after a 16-kill, 25-dig performance in a five-set thriller over No. 5 Wisconsin, and 13 digs and 14 kills in a sweep of No. 1 Minnesota in Minneapolis. Rachel Minarick was the B1G Setter of the Week on Oct. 23, after a career-best 58 assists in a win over Michigan and then surpassed the 4,000 assist mark and added 10 digs in a road sweep of Maryland.
MSU boasts a senior-dominated starting lineup: OH's Autumn Bailey, Brooke Kranda, and Holly Toliver, MB's Alyssa Garvelink and Megan Tompkins, setter Rachel Minarick, and freshman libero Jamye Cox. A seventh senior, Abby Monson, is a standout defensive specialist who has appeared in 23 of 27 matches.
A key to the Spartans' success this season is a widely-distributed offense (and defense). MSU boasts four players averaging between 2.55 and 3.53 kills per set, three who average 0.61 blocks per set or more, and four starters boast dig averages of 2.22 or more per frame.
MSU also has three players among the top six in the Big Ten (and among national leaders) in service aces per set: Holly Toliver is second the Big Ten and is 39th nationally (0.41 aces per set). Rachel Minarick (0.37, 3rd B1G), and Brooke Kranda (0.31, 8th B1G) are also among Conference leaders.
Bailey leads the Spartans with 3.53 kills per frame (seventh, B1G), is hitting .277, and is averaging 3.19 digs per set (11th, B1G). Bailey is the only six-rotation players in the Big Ten ranked in the top 11 in the league in both categories.
Bailey posted 10 double-doubles this season (all in B1G play), exceeding her total from 2016. She has 63 double-doubles in her career.
In 14 matches of 29, Bailey has led the Spartans in kills. After being MSU's kill leader in just two of nine pre-conference matches, she led MSU 12 times in the final 15 Big Ten matches.
Bailey's 2.92 digs per set in her MSU career ranks ninth all-time in the MSU record book. She is also 8th all-time at MSU in attempts per set (8.92) and 10th in kills per set (3.32).
Nationally, Bailey ranks eighth among active players in kills. She has 1,772 career terminations (which includes 1,059 in her two seasons at Marquette), and she is sixth among active players in career attempts (4,727). She is 21st among active players in kills per set (3.93), and also boasts 1,394 career digs, which is 73rd - but she ranks sixth in career digs among active six-rotation OH.
Bailey ranks 26th in the Big Ten in career kills and tied for 43rd in career digs.
On Saturday at Indiana, Bailey had her 10th double-double in Big Ten play with 16 kills and 13 digs; she also hit .333 and tied her MSU best with five service aces. At Purdue the night prior, she led MSU with 17 kills (one short of her season best) and hit .350, adding eight digs and two each aces and blocks.
Rachel Minarick averages 11.14 assists (fourth, B1G/25th nationally), 0.37 aces (3rd, B1G/77th nationally), and 2.34 digs per set. Her senior-year numbers are the best in any season of her MSU career.
Minarick owns 4,411 career helpers, she is second all-time at MSU behind Nikki Colson (4,563, 2000-03). She is 37th on the All-Time Big Ten list, and ranks 12th among active NCAA Division I players in total career assists. She needs 153 assists to become MSU's all-time leader.
Minarick has 131 career service aces, which is just outside the top 10 all-time in program history. Holly Toliver owns 119 aces over four seasons.
Minarick had 40+ assists in 10 of 20 Big Ten matches, including a career-best 58 in MSU's home victory over Michigan on Oct. 18.
In the regular-season finale at Indiana, Minarick flirted with a triple-double, finishing with nine kills and seven digs, hitting .412 in addition to her 40 assists. Minarick does have a triple-double in her career (at North Carolina, as a sophomore in September of 2015), and 24 double-doubles to her credit.
Alyssa Garvelink will graduate as one of the top blockers in school history. She currently ranks fifth all-time at MSU in total blocks (536) and fourth in block assists (480). Her 1.20 blocks per set average over four years is fifth all-time at MSU, and ranks eighth among active Division I players. She is 32nd all-time in the Big Ten record book in career blocks.
Garvelink just surpassed 1,000 career kills in the Nov. 18 match vs.. Indiana. She is the 23rd Spartan to reach the milestone, and is one of just three current Big Ten athletes with 1,000 kills and 500 blocks in their career.
Garvelink's career hitting percentage (.304) ranks sixth all-time at MSU, while her 2017 average of .384 would fall sixth in the single-season top-10 list.
Garvelink currently ranks fourth in the B1G and 31st nationally in the B1G in blocks per set (1.33). Her hitting percentage of .384 ranks fifth in the Conference (29th nationally), and she's contributing 2.55 kills/set. She is 10th among active NCAA Division I players in total career blocks (536), and is 18th in blocks per set (1.20).
Last weekend, Garvelink had 13 kills (one short of her season high), hit .333, and added four blocks at Purdue before posting nine kills, three digs, and hitting .353 with four blocks at Indiana.
Six-rotation OH Holly Toliver ranks third on the team in kills per set (2.98) and is fourth in hitting percentage (.244). She is contributing 2.22 digs and 0.55 blocks per frame. She is second in the B1G and ranks 39th nationally in service aces per set (0.41). She boasts career-best numbers in kills, hitting percentage, aces, assists, digs, and blocks.
In the Nov. 11 home match vs.. Northwestern, Toliver outscored the Wildcat squad on her own in the third and deciding set. MSU won the set by a 25-9 score - Toliver recorded five kills, five aces, and also had five digs in that frame alone. With MSU up 22-9, Toliver closed out the match with three straight aces to seal the win.
Toliver established a new career best with five blocks at Purdue (Nov. 24), adding 12 kills. The next night at Indiana, she hit a season-best .550 with 12 kills and 10 digs for a double-double.
Brooke Kranda and Megan Tompkins are MSU's fifth-year seniors, and are making their fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament. They were redshirt freshmen in 2013 when the Spartans went to the Sweet 16.
Kranda averages 3.05 kills per set (second on the team) and is averaging 0.55 blocks, 0.49 digs, and 0.31 aces per set (eighth, B1G).
Kranda owns a MSU's four-set record for service aces in a match (nine, set at Purdue in 2016). Her current .240 hitting percentage is also a career high.
Senior middle Megan Tompkins is averaging 0.74 blocks per set (good for second on the team), and also chipping in 1.32 kills per frame and hitting .259.
Tompkins had a career-best two solo blocks at Purdue last Friday, leading all players in the match with six blocks. She also tied her career best with two assists the next night at Indiana.
Tompkins has led the Spartans in blocks eight times this season, including two of the last three matches.
Jamye Cox has been the Spartan libero in each of the last 22 matches. She is averaging 3.23 digs per set on the season, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten.
Cox has 318 digs on the season, which is the third-most for a freshman in the MSU record book. The top two spots on that list are 474 by Kori Moster (2011) and 357 by Veronica Morales (1994). She passed Jill Krumm (314, 1986) for the third spot in the freshman all-time list.
Cox ranks eighth in the Big Ten (Conference games only) with 3.44 over the 20-game schedule.
Cox has the second-most digs among freshmen in the Big Ten. Hannah Gruensfelder from Ohio State posted 456 (4.34 per set).
Abby Monson is averaging 2.35 digs per set as a back row specialist.
Monson has the second-best reception percentage (.968) on the team, with five errors in 155 tries. Autumn Bailey leads the way with just eight errors in 388 chances (.979), and Holly Toliver is third (.952).
Samantha McLean had become a regular contributor for the Spartans in the back row, but will likely miss the remainder of the season with injury. She is averaging 1.37 digs per set, with a season-best four assists against Iowa (10/28).
Three Senior Aces are among the five freshmen on MSU's 2017 roster. Alyssa Chronowski (No. 30), Jamye Cox (No. 40), and Meredith Norris (No. 25) all enrolled at MSU in January and already have a semester of college courses under their belts. Julia Hatcher and Bella Legarza round out the Spartan newcomers. In addition, redshirt freshman Lauren Swartz will see her first collegiate action this fall after redshirting a year ago and earning the team's Most Improved Award.
On Nov. 8, MSU announced that five players would join the volleyball program in the fall of 2018. Four are Under Armour High School All-Americans, and three hail from the state of Michigan.: DS Lauryn Gibbs (Mt. Morris, Mich./EA Johnson), OH Maura Johnson (Ann Arbor, Mich./Community) and MB Rebecka Poljan (Bath, Mich./Lansing Catholic). Virginia native Elena Shklyar (McLean, Va./Langley), a setter, and 2015 Louisiana Player of the Year MB Naya Gros (New Orleans, La./ Louise S. McGehee) round out the class.