NCAA's Begin Friday for Spartan Volleyball
Dec. 4, 2013
Michigan State has earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and will play Ohio in the first round on Friday, Dec. 6. MSU will travel to Lexington, Ky. for the opening rounds of the tournament, where it will take on the Bobcats for the right to play either No. 17 Kentucky or Duquesne in the second round on Saturday. All games in this first and second round will be played at Memorial Coliseum on the University of Kentucky campus; the site is also one of four sites for regional competition, which will be held Dec. 13-14.
MSU is making its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance, and earned its third consecutive at-large bid to the Championship. The 2003 team is the last one to make it to three consecutive tournaments; MSU made 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament fields from 1994-2003, and is making its sixth appearance in the nine-year tenure of head coach Cathy George.
The current Spartan upperclassmen are making their third consecutive NCAA appearance. MSU made it to the second round in 2011, and advanced to the Sweet 16 a year ago with wins over San Diego and then-defending National Champion UCLA in the second round.
The 64-team field was unveiled on Sunday evening on ESPNU; the Big Ten, along with the SEC, each sent eight teams into the field, the second-most behind the nine from the Pac-12. Five Big Ten teams are hosting first-and second-round games as top-16 seeds (the most of any conference), while two Big Ten schools will be regional hosts (Illinois and Nebraska). Three B1G teams appear in the bracket for both the Champaign (Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin) and Kentucky (MSU, Penn State, Minnesota) regionals, while Nebraska is the only school in the Lincoln regional pod and Michigan the lone B1G representative in the Los Angeles regional pod.
This is MSU's second trip to Lexington for first and second round NCAA games in the tenure of MSU head coach Cathy George; the 2009 team faced the host Wildcats in the first round (falling, 3-0). MSU played Kentucky one other time in the NCAA Tournament, in the first round in 2007 in Dayton. MSU won, 3-1, en route to the Sweet 16 that season.
Ohio went 27-5 in 2013, and won the East Division of the Mid-American Conference with a 14-2 record. Ohio won its eighth MAC Tournament title and eighth MAC regular season crown, marking just the sixth time in program history that Ohio won both titles in the same season. Ohio enters the NCAA Tournament as winners in 11 of their last 12 matches. All-time, this will serve as the third meeting between the teams; the most recent meeting came in 2004, a 3-0 Spartan victory. The first meeting was in 1992, a 3-1 MSU win.
MSU faced Duquesne earlier this season in the Spartan Invitational, a 3-1 MSU victory. MSU is 4-0 all-time against the Dukes (20-9), which captured the Atlantic-10 title to earn the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky, seeded 15th in the Tournament, posted a 21-8 overall mark and was 13-5 in Southeastern Conference play, finishing third behind undefeated Missouri and Florida. The Wildcats are 13-3 on their home floor this season. The all-time series between MSU and Kentucky is 4-1 in favor of the Spartans, with the most recent meeting coming in 2009 in the NCAA First Round.
GENERAL TEAM NOTES
The Spartans finished the regular season with a 21-11 overall record, and were 10-10 in the Big Ten Conference for a seventh-place finish.
Michigan State split four of its five Big Ten weekends in the second half of the round robin. MSU registered season sweeps of Ohio State, Northwestern, and Iowa, and split with Penn State, Illinois, Nebraska, and Michigan. Wisconsin and Minnesota became the first teams to defeat MSU twice this season, while MSU fell to each of its one-time opponents (Indiana and Purdue).
MSU regular lineup features four seniors - setter Kristen Kelsay, middle blockers Kelsey Kuipers and Alexis Mathews, and outside hitter Lauren Wicinski. With 83 victories over the last four seasons, it is the most wins for a senior class since the 2001 group also had 83. The senior class of 2000 had 85 victories, while the 1999 group had 93.
At 6-4, MSU compiled its best first-half Big Ten record under Cathy George. In 2012, MSU went 4-6, but went 7-3 in the second half to finish 11-9. MSU was 4-6 in the second half of the Big Ten round-robin, evening out at .500.
Michigan State fell one spot in the AVCA Top 25 this week, to No. 20 - this matches MSU's lowest poll position of the season. On Oct. 14, MSU was ranked No. 5, its highest national ranking since being ranked third in the 1996 pre-season AVCA poll.
The Big Ten has a national-best eight teams in the top-25 this week. Penn State remained at No. 2, while Nebraska is No. 9, and Minnesota is No. 10. Wisconsin is No. 13, followed by No. 18 Illinois, No. 19 Purdue, MSU at No. 20 and No. 24 Michigan.
According to the latest RPI report released by the NCAA on Monday, nine Big Ten teams appear in the top 50, including seven in the top 30, the most among all conferences. Penn State leads the way at No. 1, followed by No. 9 Nebraska, No. 11 Minnesota, No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 20 Illinois, No. 27 Purdue, and No. 28 Michigan State. Michigan checks in at No. 33, while No. 50 Ohio State did not make the tournament field. Among the teams in Lexington this weekend, host Kentucky is No. 10, Ohio is No. 40, and Duquesne No. 93.
MSU is now 5-8 against ranked teams this season. The Spartans are 2-4 when ranked lower than their opponent (against Oregon, Penn State, and Nebraska, and the most recent meetings with Wisconsin and Minnesota), and are 3-4 when ranked higher.
Of MSU's 11 losses this season, nine are to teams in the top 35 of the RPI. MSU's strength of schedule is 38th in the country.
MSU completed its non-conference portion of the schedule with an 11-1 record. MSU is 23-1 over the last two non-conference seasons.
MSU completed its pre-Big Ten slate by extending its streak to 18 consecutive non-conference wins on its home floor. The streak dates back to September of 2010 - MSU's last home loss to a non-Big Ten team came on Sept. 11, 2010 to Eastern Michigan, 3-2.
In five of its 10 Big Ten losses, MSU has had the same number or more kills than its opponent.
MSU had 168 attempts in the most recent game against Purdue, its third-highest number of attempts this season. Its first two came against Minnesota - there were 195 in the Oct. 17 meeting, and 168 on Nov. 23 at Jenison.
MSU's dig totals have significantly increased over recent weeks. In the last 15 matches, MSU has had 12 matches with 45+ digs. MSU had just five matches with 45+ digs in its pre-conference schedule of 12 matches.
MSU has five matches with 11+ blocks in its last eight matches, including 14 in each match at Michigan and Purdue last week. MSU had nine matches with 10+ blocks in its first 24 contests.
MSU averages 1.54 service aces per set, which continues to lead the Big Ten and ranks 29th nationally. The nine aces against Minnesota on Nov. 23 is MSU's Big Ten single-match high this season, while MSU recorded 12 against Duquesne for the overall season high on Sept. 21.
MSU's home attendance, 43,368 fans over 15 home matches, currently ranks eighth nationally; its average of 2,891 per game ranks 11th. MSU's crowd of 6,183 for the Michigan match on Oct. 23 set an attendance record for the volleyball program at Jenison Field House. The only larger crowd for the Spartans was In 2010, when MSU played its senior night match at the Breslin Center; the 6,824 in attendance was the largest to ever attend a Spartan home volleyball match.
Five players were honored on Tuesday as the Big Ten announced its list of post-season award winners. Lauren Wicinski was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection, while Kori Moster was the league's Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. Moster and Alexis Mathews were Honorable Mention All-Big Ten picks, Chloe Reinig was selected to the All-Freshman team, and Kristen Kelsaywas the Sportsmanship Award Winner for the second consecutive season.
MSU has three All-Big Ten honorees for the first time since 2003. MSU had a program-high five selections in 1995. MSU has back-to-back selections to the All-Rookie team for the first time in program history, as Halle Petersonearned the honor last season.
Wicinski was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday, earning the honor for the fourth time this season and fifth time in her career. Wicinski hit .345 last week, leading all players in kills in both road matches at Michigan and Purdue. She had 19 kills and just missed a double-double with nine digs, and added three blocks as MSU swept Michigan to help the Spartans retain the State Pride Flag for the fourth consecutive season. At Purdue on Saturday, the Spartans battled through the third straight 3-2 decision in the series, and Wicinski's 21 kills and 13 digs were her sixth double-double of the season and 49th of her career.
Wicinski is the first MSU player in program history to earn four Big Ten Player of the Week awards in a single season. Jenna Wrobel earned eight in her career, but no more than three in one season.
The first set against Ohio on Friday will be the 500th in Wicinski's career. Kelsay will play in her 463rd, and Mathews her 458th.
Wicinski has led MSU in kills in 29 of 32 matches this season, and has been the overall match kill leader in 27 of 32 contests.
Wicinski has pushed her career kills total to 2,376, which ranks 14th all-time in the NCAA record book. She needs 102 kills to get into the top 10 all-time in the sport.
Wicinski is third in the Big Ten in kills/set (4.45), which is 18th nationally; she ranks ninth nationally and leads the Big Ten in points (5.21/set). She ranks second in the Big Ten in service aces (0.41 per set), which is 23rd nationally.
Wicinski leads the country's active players in several categories. She ranks first among active players in career kills (2,376), total attempts (5,531), and aces (270); she's second in kills/set (4.76), 13th in attempts per game (11.08), 12th in sets played (499) and 15th in matches played (137).
Wicinski is one of 10 finalists for volleyball's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. Fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website (www.SeniorCLASSaward.com) through December 9. Fan votes will be combined with media and Division I head coaches' votes to determine the winner, who will be announced during the NCAA Division I Championship weekend. Fans are encouraged to vote daily, and use the hashtag #Vote4Lo via social media. Junior Kori Mosteris the only player in program history to be named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and she has now done it in back-to-back seasons. She leads the Big Ten in digs per set (4.65), her career-best average. She has also earned Honorable Mention kudos from the Big Ten in each of the last two seasons; she and Purdue's Carly Cramer are the only liberos to earn post-season B1G honors.
Moster became MSU's all-time digs leader on Nov. 8 vs. Northwestern. She surpassed Veronica Morales, who held the school record since 1997 (1,484). Moster currently boasts 1,611 career digs, which ranks 16th all-time in the Big Ten.
Moster's 4.65 digs per set is fourth all-time in a single-season at MSU, behind Nicole Colaluca's5.41 digs per set in 2005. Colaluca averaged 4.71 in 2006.
Moster has twice this season tied her career best with 29 digs, (against Minnesota on Oct. 17, and Michigan), originally set against San Diego in the NCAA Tournament last December. Her 29 vs. the Wolverines is the second-highest total in MSU history in a four-set match.
Moster ranks 59th among active NCAA players in career digs. Moster recorded 602 digs in 2012, good for second in MSU's single-season record book. Moster's 474 digs as a freshman was sixth in a single season, and her current total of 535 is the third-highest single-season total in school history.
Mathews earned All-Big Ten honors for the first time in her career. The fifth-year senior is an honorable mention pick as she posts a career-best statistical season.
Mathews is second the Big Ten and is 25th nationally in hitting percentage (.402). That total places her fourth all-time in a single season in the Spartan annals, where her junior-year hitting percentage (.388) ranks fifth.
Mathews is second in the B1G in blocks per set (1.52), which ranks 10th nationally and ranks sixth all-time in the single-season MSU record book.
Mathews has a season total of 173 blocks (12 solo, 161 assists), which is fourth all-time in a single season at MSU; her sophomore (eighth) and junior (sixth) already rank among the top blocking seasons in school history. Her 161 block assists this season is her career best and the second- highest single-season total in school history; she needs two more to match Dana Cooke's school record of 163. With 18 more blocks this season, she will tie Cooke's record of 191 total blocks in a season; she currently ranks fourth.
With 613 career blocks, Mathews is just the second player in school history and 13th in the history of the Big Ten to record 600 blocks. Angela Morley(637) is MSU's all-time leader, and Mathews is currently 13th all-time in the Big Ten record book. Mathews has 551 career block assists, just one shy of Morley's school record of 552.
Mathews owns a .344 career hitting percentage, which is just outside of the top 25 among active players in Division I volleyball and second all-time at MSU. She ranks sixth among active players in blocks per set (1.32) and is second in total blocks (613).
Kristen Kelsayhad back-to-back double-doubles in the penultimate weekend of the season against Wisconsin and Minnesota. She had 23 assists and 11 digs against Wisconsin, and 29 assists and 15 digs against the Gophers. Her four double-doubles this season gives her 15 in her career.
Kelsay's 29 assists against Minnesota on Nov. 23 was her season best in a Big Ten match. She owns 2,968 career assists, good for sixth place at MSU all-time.
With Michigan State running a 6-2 offense, Kelsay (6.73 A/s) ranks 10th in the Big Ten in assists/set, while sophomore (and 2012 Big Ten All-Freshman team honoree) Halle Peterson(4.95) does not appear among conference leaders. As a team, however, the Spartans rank third in the Big Ten in assists per set (12.85).
Kelsay is MSU's second all-time two-time winner of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award (2010 graduate Jenilee Rathjewas the first). Earlier this season, she was named a First Team Academic All-District selection by CoSIDA, and has advanced onto the Academic All-America ballot.
Freshman Allyssah Fittererset an MSU record when she hit .786 (12-1-14) at Northwestern on Nov. 8. The previous four-set record in the MSU record book was .708 (17-0-24) by Cheryl Histed against Eastern Michigan in November 1983. On Nov. 9 at Illinois, she turned in two more career bests, getting 15 kills on a season-high 25 attempts, hitting .520 and adding five blocks.
Over the last 10 matches (the second half of the Big Ten round-robin), Fitterer is hitting .333 (88-28-180), which is second on the team; she has 25 blocks, tied for second on the squad. Overall, her .260 hitting percentage and 0.76 blocks per set is second on the team in both categories.
Chloe Reinigwas named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, giving MSU an All-Freshman Team selection in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history. She is second on the team with 2.65 kills per set, and she is hitting .211 on the season. She has 10+ kills in 12 of her 20 career Big Ten matches.
Taylor Gallowayhas had 9+ digs in nine of the last 14 matches for MSU, averaging 2.5 digs/set in that span. She tied her season best with 14 digs for the fifth time this season against Minnesota (Nov. 23). Eight of her 10 double-digit dig games have come in the last 14 contests.
Halle Petersontied her career high with a season-best 27 assists at Purdue in the regular-season finale.
Senior Kelsey Kuipers has turned in a pair of her best performances of the season over the last two games. Against Michigan, she tied her career best with six blocks, which she had also tied earlier this season against Virginia Tech. On Saturday at Purdue, she tied her season best with eight kills, hit .467, and also contributed five blocks.
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