Spartans advance to Sweet 16 after knocking off defending champion UCLA
The chips were stacked against the Spartans on Saturday, as they squared off against the defending national champion UCLA at their home court.
Although every seemed to go against the Spartans before the match, it was MSU who was walking out of Pauley Pavilion with the win to send them to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
The Spartans, who were led by junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski’s 23 kills, defeated the Bruins in four thrilling sets (25-17, 29-27, 18-25, 25-22).
The first set got off to the start MSU was looking for, as they used an early 8-4 lead to build a cushion they used to defeat the Bruins, 25-17.
The second set was the most dramatic of the night, as the Spartans were behind the whole set until they grabbed a 28-27 lead. The Spartans then drove the nail into the second set, to make it a crucial 29-27 victory.
The third set started to mirror the second, as they Spartans were trailing by a small margin for most the set. Unfortunately for MSU, the Bruins did not surrender this lead as they used 15 kills to win, 25-18.
It was in the fourth set where the Spartans accomplished the upset, as they used six kills by Wicinski to seal the deal, 25-22.
The defense stepped up as they held UCLA to a .261 hitting percentage compared to MSU’s .293. The Spartan defense was led by sophomore libero Kori Moster, who tallied 28 digs on the match, and junior middle blocker Alexis Mathews and Wicinski, who both had four blocks each.
The Spartans now move on to the Sweet Sixteen, where they will meet up with in-state rival Michigan. This season, the Spartans are 1-1 against the Wolverines, with one victorious sweep at Michigan, and then one sweeping defeat at Jenison Field House.
The matchup will be held at 8 p.m. Friday in Berkley, California.