Monday, December 5, 2022

No. 9 Spartans upset by Arizona in NCAA Tournament

December 3, 2016
The Spartan volleyball team huddles up after winning the first round of the NCAA Championship against Fairfield University on Dec. 2, 2016 at Jenison Field House. The Spartans defeated the Stags, 3-0.
The Spartan volleyball team huddles up after winning the first round of the NCAA Championship against Fairfield University on Dec. 2, 2016 at Jenison Field House. The Spartans defeated the Stags, 3-0. —
Photo by Nic Antaya | and Nic Antaya The State News

All eyes were on Jenison Fieldhouse for the second straight night as the MSU volleyball team continued its trek in the NCAA Tournament. In a five-set classic, the Arizona Wildcats were able to stave off and eliminate the Spartans, 25-17, 16-25, 19-25, 26-24, 10-15.

In the first round, the Wildcats ousted Cleveland State, 3-0, to keep their season alive.

The previous night, the home Spartans prevailed against the Fairfield Stags in straight sets, 3-0. Redshirt-junior Autumn Bailey led the way with her 8 kills and 11 digs. A balanced MSU attack had four different players with at least six kills.

In the first set, the Wildcats held a quick 2-0 lead that was vanquished almost immediately by MSU. From the night before, the Spartans continued their hot-hitting ways from the night before as they were hitting a .889 attack rate at the first stoppage of play. The Wildcats took a timeout at that point with MSU leading, 12-8.

The difference in the game from the night before, though, was the Wildcats offense compared to the Stags. Arizona had a solid .600 attack rate to counter the Spartans.

For the Spartans, the first Wildcats timeout proved for naught as MSU went on a 4-1 to stretch its lead to 16-9. It forced another timeout taken by Arizona head coach David Rubio.

From there, it was all MSU as it took the set, 25-17. The Spartan defense improved dramatically, as the Wildcats fell to a .207 attack rate. The Spartans also contributed three blocks in the set.

This time around in the second set, the home team was the one to get off to a 2-0 start. It prompted Rubio to call his first timeout of the set.

The quick break paid off for the team as the Wildcats were able to take a 10-7 lead. This time around, head coach Cathy George took the timeout after the Arizona run. The roles were reversed, as the Wildcats continued its run against MSU, opening it up, 18-12.

George took another timeout at that point, hoping to stop the bleeding. The effort, though, was for naught as the Wildcats ultimately took the set, 25-16. They knotted everything up going into the break, 1-1.

Coming out of the quick intermission, the game was knotted up in a competitive back-and-forth. But the Wildcats came out on a quick run forcing the lead, 11-8. George took the first timeout of the set to calm down her players.

The Wildcats continued their swinging ways, though, hitting .333 to MSU's .138, holding its advantage, 18-13. Rubio took a timeout up five points in the waning moments of the set. A 2-0 run immediately after would have George calling for a quick stoppage in play to talk with her players.

But the Spartans weren't done just yet, as a 4-1 run had them just four points away from the Wildcats, 21-17. Rubio took a timeout in order to stop the bleeding.

With the set count tied between the two teams, the Wildcats made a statement by snatching the fourth set, 25-19. They took the lead on the home team as the Spartans would have to climb out of a hole.

The Spartans would head to the fourth set, down 2-1, and staring at potentially its last of the season. With their backs against the wall staring at a 6-4 deficit, they used a 4-0 run to get in front 2-0 after the junior libero, Abby Monson's, serve kissed the back of the line for an ace.

The momentum was on the Spartans' side with the crowd roaring in appreciation, 8-6. Rubio took the timeout to regroup. The teams traded points but the Wildcats got back into it, 13-13, making it George's turn to get her squad back in order.

A berth in the Sweet 16 was in the works as the set came down to its final moments. After a quick 19-19 tie, MSU was able to take the slim 21-19 lead, heading into another Wildcats timeout.

But the Wildcats weren't done yet, using a 4-1 run to take the one-point lead. MSU was just two points away from going home before George took her second and final timeout. The Spartans would need to eek out a close one to force a winner-take-all fifth set to 15 points.

Just one point away from defeat and staring at a 24-23 deficit, senior and captain Chloe Reinig came through in a big way with a kill to tie it. After a net violation and a back row block, the Spartans came back in dramatic fashion to force the fifth and final set, 26-24.

In the crucial set to determine it all, the Wildcats got off to their best start to a set that night, 6-1. After switching sides at 8-3, the Spartans were facing a large deficit to overcome, with the first to 15 winning the match.

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The plot thickened as MSU slowly shaved away the Wildcats lead to just two points, 10-8. A Rubio timeout was met with a large cheer from the crowd. The away team was able to recover, as they eliminated the Spartans from the Tournament, 15-10.

The advancing Wildcats would go on to face the victor between Washington and Kentucky in the Sweet 16. The No. 9-seeded Spartans were unable to advance as they were upset in the second round.


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