Spartans Head Back to Lexington for Sweet 16
Dec. 11, 2013
MSU has advanced in the NCAA Tournament to the Round of 16, and will face No. 2 Penn State on Friday at 5 p.m. in Lexington, Ky. Minnesota and Stanford are the other two teams which advanced to the Lexington regional, and will play in the nightcap. All games will be played at Memorial Coliseum on the University of Kentucky campus; the site was also one of 16 sites for first and second round competition last weekend.
The Spartans played the first and second rounds at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington last weekend, and return there for the Regional. MSU swept MAC Champion Ohio, 3-0 in the opening round, then came back with a 3-1 win over the host Wildcats on Sunday.
No. 2 Penn State enters the weekend with a 30-2 overall record, and won the Big Ten with a 19-1 mark. MSU was the lone team to earn a win over Penn State in the Conference season, a five-setter in State College. Since that meeting on Sept. 27, Penn State has won 21 consecutive matches (including a 3-0 win at Jenison Field House on Nov. 2), and won the B1G title outright with a 19-1 record in conference games. The Nittany Lions swept both LIU-Brooklyn and Utah in the first weekend of NCAA action. MSU's win over the then-top-ranked Nittany Lions in September is MSU's lone victory over a No. 1 team in program history.
No. 10 Minnesota is one of two Big Ten teams to defeat the Spartans twice during the 2013 season (Wisconsin is the other). The Gophers punched their ticket to the Sweet 16 by defeating Radford Friday night in three sets and knocked out Colorado Saturday night in five. Minnesota is making its fifth-straight NCAA Sweet 16 appearance and enter the NCAA Regional Semifinal with a 29-6 overall record; it finished 15-5 in Big Ten play this season, good for third place in the standings.
Stanford, No. 3 in the AVCA poll, enters the regional with a pair of three-set victories in its sub-regional last weekend, weeping Hampton before clinching its berth in the Lexington Regional with a 3-0 win over Oklahoma. The Cardinal posted a 26-5 regular-season record and second-place finish in the Pac-12 (17-3).
GENERAL TEAM NOTES
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 Spartans are making their third consecutive NCAA appearance, and MSU's sixth trip to the Sweet 16 in program history (and third under Coach George.)
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. For the second straight season, MSU will face a conference foe in the Round of 16 - MSU fell to Michigan last season.
The 64-team field was unveiled on Dec. 1 on ESPNU; the Big Ten and SEC each sent eight teams into the field, the second-most behind the nine from the Pac-12. Five Big Ten teams hosted first-and second-round games as top-16 seeds, while two Big Ten schools are regional hosts (Illinois and Nebraska).
Seven Big Ten Conference seven teams have advanced to the Round of 16, more than twice the number of any other conference (the Pac-12 has three remaining) and the most of any conference in the history of the NCAA Volleyball tournament. The B1G had sent a conference-best six teams into the Round of 16 in each of the last two seasons.
This is MSU's third trip to Lexington for 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 won both games in Lexington last weekend, and hopes to play two more here in the regionals.
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. MSU's seniors own 85 victories over the last four seasons, matching the most wins for a senior class since 2000, and the most in the George regime. MSU's senior class in 1999 group 93 victories.
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 to No. 20 after the final week of the season - 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 survey.
MSU is 6-8 against ranked teams this season. The Spartans own identical 3-4 records whether playing a team ranked lower or higher than their opponent.
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. In addition, eight of MSU's losses are to teams who are still alive in the NCAA Tournament.
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, and owns 18 consecutive non-conference wins on its home floor.
The Spartans compiled a season-best 66 kills in its four-set victory over Kentucky, hitting .249. MSU also had a season high in assists (61) and its second-most digs in a match (75) this season. MSU had four players record double-digit digs in the match, which tied its season best - the Spartans had four in double-digits when they had 92 digs at Minnesota on Oct. 17.
MSU had 162 attempts in the game against Kentucky, its fourth-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 took 167 swings in its regular-season finale at Purdue.
MSU's dig totals have significantly increased over recent weeks. Over its last 17 outings, MSU has had 13 matches with 45+ digs. MSU had just five occasions with 45+ digs in its pre-conference schedule of 12 matches.
MSU has six occasions with 10+ blocks in its last 10 matches, including 14 in each match at Michigan and Purdue in the final week of the regular season and 11 against Ohio in the first round of the Tournament. MSU had nine matches with 10+ blocks in its first 24 contests.
MSU averages 1.51 service aces per set, which leads the Big Ten and ranks 34th nationally. The nine aces against Minnesota on Nov. 23 is MSU's B1G 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 last week 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 Kelsay was 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 Peterson earned the honor last season.
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.
Wicinski has led MSU in kills in 31 of 34 matches this season, and has been the overall match kill leader in 28 of 34 contests.
In the second-round match vs. No. 17 Kentucky, Wicinski paced the effort with a double-double, (16 kills, 17 digs, and four blocks). It was her season high in digs, four off her career best.
Wicinski has pushed her career kills total to 2,408, which ranks 13 all-time in the NCAA record book. She needs 70 kills to get into the top 10 all-time in the sport.
In the most recent game against Kentucky, Wicinski posted a double-double with 16 kills and 17 digs (she also added four blocks). It was her 50th career double-double.
Wicinski is second in the Big Ten in kills/set (4.45), which is 17th nationally; she ranks ninth nationally and leads the Big Ten in points (5.21/set). She ranks third in the Big Ten in service aces (0.41 per set), which is 22nd nationally.
Wicinski leads the country's active players in several categories. She ranks first among active players in career kills (2,408), total attempts (5,616), and aces (274); she's second in kills/set (4.76), 13th in attempts per game (11.08), sixth in sets played (506) and eighth in matches played (139).
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 were 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 Moster is 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 1,648 career digs, which ranks 15th 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's 5.41 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 57th 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 572 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.
Over her last four matches, Mathews is hitting .465 (44-10-73) and averaging 2.9 kills per set.
Mathews leads the Big Ten and is 19th nationally in hitting percentage (.406). That total places her third 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 (1.50), which ranks 11th nationally and ranks sixth all-time in the single-season MSU record book.
Mathews has a season total of 182 blocks (12 solo, 170 assists), which is second 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 170 block assists this season is not only a career best but also the highest single-season total in school history. With nine more blocks this season, she will tie Cooke's record of 191 total blocks in a season; she currently ranks second.
Matthews became MSU's career leader in block assists against Ohio; now with 560 block assists (a school record) and 62 solo blocks, her 622 career total blocks ranks second at MSU and 12th in Big Ten history. She's ninth all-time in the B1G in block assists.
Mathews owns a .346 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 Kelsay had back-to-back double-doubles in the penultimate weekend of the season against Wisconsin and Minnesota. She had 30 assists in the game against Kentucky last Sunday, and now owns 3,017 career assists, good for sixth place at MSU all-time.
With Michigan State running a 6-2 offense, Kelsay (6.75 A/s) ranks 10th in the Big Ten in assists/set, while sophomore (and 2012 Big Ten All-Freshman team honoree) Halle Peterson (5.02) does not appear among conference leaders. As a team, however, the Spartans rank third in the Big Ten in assists per set (12.93).
Kelsay is MSU's second all-time two-time winner of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award (2010 graduate Jenilee Rathje was 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.
Peterson had a double-double against Kentucky, with 25 assists (two shy of her season best) and 11 digs, which tied her season high and is one short of her career high. She also tied her career high with a season-best 27 assists at Purdue in the regular-season finale.
Freshman Allyssah Fitterer tied her career-best with 15 kills and hit .433 (in a career-high 30 swings) against Kentucky. Since Nov. 1 - the start of the second half of the Big Ten round robin, Fitterer has had six of her eight double-digit kill performances, and in those 12 matches is hitting .335, good for second on the team in that span. Overall, she's hitting .267 and is second on the team with 0.76 blocks/set.
Fitterer set 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.
Chloe Reinig was 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 2.60 kills per set, and she is hitting .207 on the season. She has 10+ kills in 12 of her 20 career Big Ten matches.
Taylor Galloway has had 9+ digs in 10 of the last 16 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). Nine of her 11 double-digit dig games have come in the last 16contests.
Senior Kelsey Kuipers has turned in a some of her best statistical performances of the season over the last four games. Against Michigan, she tied her career best with six blocks, which she had also tied earlier this season against Virginia Tech. On Nov. 30 at Purdue, she tied her season best with eight kills, hit .467, and also contributed five blocks. She had three solo blocks against Ohio in the first NCAA Tournament game - achieving a new career high.
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