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.
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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