Spartans Hold Off Bruins, 3-1

Michigan State  Volleyball (PHOTO:  MSU SID)
Michigan State Volleyball (PHOTO: MSU SID)

No. 22 Michigan State saw Belmont stage a big third-set comeback to force a fourth frame, but closed it out with a decisive fourth-set victory to earn the 3-1 win to close out the Tennessee Classic (25-20, 25-11, 25-27, 25-10).

MSU has won two straight after a heartbreaker on Friday night where it fell to Tennessee 3-1. The Spartans hit a season-best .244 in the match, led by 14 kills and a .462 hitting performance from Alyssa Chronowski, her third straight double-digit kill effort to start the season. Molly Johnson recorded 10 kills and a pair of digs, while both Jamye Cox (29) and Meredith Norris (17) established new career bests in digs.

MSU earned the first set win and then followed it up with an easy victory in set two. Holding a seven-point edge in the third set, the Bruins fought back to within two at 19-17 and tied it 23-23 before prevailing 27-25 thanks in part to some Spartan unforced errors. The fourth set was all MSU, building to a 23-8 edge in the frame and closing it out 25-10 for the 3-1 win.

Halee VanPoppel led the Bruins with 14 kills and 11 digs while Maggie Mullins just missed a double-double with 10 kills and nine digs.

The Spartans head to Chapel Hill to take part in the Carolina Classic at North Carolina next weekend. MSU will take on Maryland-Eastern Shore, UNC-Greensboro in addition to the host Tar Heels.

"As always on an opening weekend, I think you can learn a lot about your team. We were able to get all six of our freshmen a good amount of time on the floor, and for our sophomores too, it was their first time in many of these situations. Unfortunately we had a couple of our veterans out, and as we're able to get them back in, they will help provide us a different dimension. For week one, we have a lot of positives to build on in addition to the things we identified that we need to work on before we head to North Carolina next week."

- Head Coach Cathy George

 Alyssa Chronowski delivered a third-straight double-digit kill performance to start the season, recording 14 kills in the match and hitting a match-high .462.
 Molly Johnson had 3 kills and hit .393, delivering several critical kills in each the third and fourth sets.
 Maggie Midgette got the start and had a career-best 39 assists to go with six digs.
Jamye Cox established a new career best with 29 digs, bettering the career high of 24 she set as a freshman vs. Southern Illinois. Meredith Norris' 17 digs was also a career best.

• The Spartans had 10 service aces in the match, after 13 in the morning match vs. Chattanooga and three on Friday night vs. the host Volunteers.
• MSU put together its most consistent hitting performance of the weekend hitting .226 in each of the first two sets and .205 in the third before closing it out with a .346 performance in the final frame.

• SET ONE:  MSU had a slow start to the match falling behind by six (11-5), but fighting back into it to decrease the deficit to three, (12-9) then tie it up, 12-12. MSU kept rolling to make it a 13-2 run, pulling ahead by an 18-14 margin and forcing the Bruins into a second time out. The teams traded points, with the Bruins putting up kills (16 points on 12 terminations), but the Spartans both terminating well themselves and scoring on Belmont miscues. MSU held a 23-19 lead when Chronowski terminated on a back row attack to get to set point, and she followed with another kill from the left pin to close it out. MSU hit .226 in the frame, getting four kills from Chronowski (.500) and three from Johnson (.500). Jamye Cox had 10 digs.

• SET TWO:  The Spartans led 8-4 early in the second set and never looked back, running away to a 21-8 lead when the Bruins called a second time out. The Bruins tried to stage a late rally to make the score a bit more respectable, but MSU got a kill by Chronowski to get to set point at 24-11, and an ace from Cox secured the second-set victory. Chronowski and Naya Gros each had three kills in the frame, while Cox tacked on six more digs in the second set.

As they did in the second, an early 8-4 lead led the Spartans to a 13-5 edge, but the Bruins fought back to make it 15-9 thanks to a couple of hitting errors by the Spartans and a Belmont ace. The Bruins were able to trim it to four (18-14), then two at 19-17 after back-to-back Spartan miscues. Molly Johnson stopped the run with a pair of big swings that made it 21-17, but the Bruins got the points back and made it 21-19 before MSU went back to Johnson to stop the run. An ace by Samantha McLane re-established a four-point edge for the Spartans (23-19) when Belmont called time out. The scrappy Bruins fought back to tie it and take a 24-23 lead on a hitting error, but Gros came up with a big swing to make it 24-all. After the Bruins took a 25-24 and 26-25 leads on Tori Simmons kills, a service error re-tied the frame, and a Maggie Mullins kill gave Belmont the 27-25 victory. Johnson had five kills in the third to tie for the match lead in the frame.

• SET FOUR:  MSU learned the lesson from the third set, building a large lead and then keeping its foot on the gas to earn a 25-10 victory to close out the match victory. Chronowski had four kills and Johnson three, and Meredith Norris had six of her 17 digs in the frame. Rebecka Poljan came off the bench to record three blocks (one solo) and a kill in the frame.

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