With every big win reads a crucial performance in the box score, and with MSU volleyball’s memorable weekend in the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans are no exception.
During their wins against the West Coast Conference champion, San Diego, and reigning national champion, No. 7 UCLA, the Spartans saw three players step up to have career weekends to give the Spartans a pair of statement victories.
Sophomore libero Kori Moster, junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski and junior middle blocker Alexis Mathews were the three Spartans that took over the first two rounds of the tourney.
Moster, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, gave her team a career-high 29 digs against San Diego, only to put up an impressive 28 digs the next night against UCLA. For Moster, learning about her record-setting performance wasn’t until after the match.
“I found it out after I came out of the locker room,” Moster said. “My dad is big on numbers, so he let me know really quick.”
Another key contributor on defense was Mathews, who recorded her first double-double of the year by bringing 10 blocks and a season-high 14 kills to the table against San Diego.
“At the time, I didn’t know (I had a double-double),” Mathews said. “I knew I was doing fine, but it was a pleasant surprise, because I really wasn’t thinking about it too hard, and that allowed me to play looser.”
Mathews’ solid weekend was not over on Friday, as she continued her dominance at crucial points against UCLA. Late in fourth set, Mathews broke a tie with back-to-back kills to give the Spartans a 24-22 lead, and then completed the upset victory by blocking the final point. That solid finish was so crucial for the team that Mathews said it was a better performance than her double-double against the Toreros.
“The UCLA match was better (for me), because I did struggle at first, but I was able to come back and finish the game,” Mathews said.
Wicinski, a unanimous All-Big Ten team selection, provided a double-double as she recorded 20 kills and 10 digs against San Diego as well. And just like Mathews and Moster, she carried her solid play into the UCLA game, as she hit up the Bruins for 23 kills.
For Wicinski, it was the win or go home mindset that gave her the mental edge over the weekend.
“Basically, winners move on, and losers go home,” Wicinski said. “San Diego plays amazing defense, some of the best we’ve seen all year, so we knew we had to work hard (to move on).”
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