Spartans Claim Tournament Title

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

Michigan State earned the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational title with a 3-1 win over in-state rival Western Michigan (25-19, 25-22, 14-25, 25-20). MSU finishes non-conference play on a 12-match winning streak,

The error bug bit the Spartans hard in the match – MSU had 25 hitting errors (49-25-140, .171) and nine from the service line. However, the Green and White remained resilient throughout, despite falling behind by as many as five points in the second set before rallying for a win and dropping the third set by a 25-14 margin.

Meredith Norris led the way for MSU with a career-best 13 kills and added four digs and an ace. Alyssa Chronowski capped her evening with 11 kills, eight digs, two blocks and three aces in the match against the Broncos, while Naya Gros posted nine kills, seven blocks, and hit a team-best .316. The Spartans out-blocked WMU with a slim 9-8 edge.

For WMU, Rachel Bontrager had 14 kills, while Janell Wiliams had seven terminations and hit a match-best .545. The Broncos hit .154 on the night, brought down by an .067 hitting percentage in the fourth set after topping out at .375 in the third set. WMU used 14 different players in the match.

Alyssa Chronowski earned tournament MVP honors, while freshmen Naya Gros and Becka Poljan were also named to the All-Tournament team. Chronowski led all hitters in the tournament with an average of 3.5 kills per set, gors was the top hitter with a .588 average over the three matches, and Poljan averaged 2.5 blocks per set. Western Michigan had both Williams and libero Kathleen Riley on the All-Tournament team; Riley led the pack with 4.86 digs per set over the weekend, while Williams averaged 1.0 blocks per set and hit .257. Emily Martinez (UAB) and Akuabata Okenwa (Albany) earned spots on the All-Tournament squad.

Big Ten play begins next weekend for the Spartans. MSU opens at Iowa on Friday night (8 pm ET), then plays on Sunday at 3 pm ET in Lincoln when the MSU-Nebraska matchup airs live on ESPNU.

 QUOTABLE
"Western really pushed us tonight – they were scrappy and poised, and had us on the ropes a few times. In the big picture, that is probably good for us, because we will have to continue to learn how to be resilient with the Big Ten season starting next week. Overall, I thought our young team handled the non-conference season pretty well. There are still areas we will continue to work to be better, new things that will get exposed in Big Ten play, and situations that will test us every match in Conference play, and we're looking forward to those challenges."

 - Head Coach Cathy George

TOP PERFORMERS 
Alyssa Chronowski posted 11 kills, eight digs, three service aces and two blocks.
Meredith Norris had a career-best 13 kills and added four digs and a block.
Naya Gros had nine kills, hit .316, and added a match-best seven blocks.

STATS AND STORYLINES 
• Michigan State completes non-conference play with a 12-1 overall record and with 12 consecutive wins after an opening-night setback to Tennessee. It is MSU's most non-conference victories since going 12-0 in both 2009 and 2012.
• MSU's stretch of 23 straight set victories came to an end with a 25-14 loss in the third set. MSU's last set loss was the first frame at North Carolina on Sept. 1.

• MSU won three of its four non-conference tournaments: the Carolina Classic, the Fairfield Invitational, and the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational.
Elena Shklyar recorded her first collegiate double-double, posting 32 assists and 12 digs in three-plus sets.
• Norris' previous career high for kills was 12, set against Chattanooga (Aug. 25). She was the service aces leader for the tournament, averaging 0.60.

GAME REPLAY 

SET ONE: Neither team could gain any separation in the first half of the first set, as the teams were tied 10 times and the lead changed five times with the score tied at 12-12. MSU began to pull away and went up 16-13 on a kill by Gros and a service ace by Sam McLean, forcing the Broncos to take their first time out. Norris came back with a line shot out of the break, and MSU maintained its four-point edge to 19-15, then to 21-15 on a WMU error and a Talia Edmonds ace. The Broncos called their second timeout, MSU won the set by a 25-19 margin, but held set point at 24-17 before the Broncos twice fended off the finish of the set before sending an attack long to hand it to MSU. Meredith Norris led the MSU offense with five kills, as the Spartans had 15 kills total and hit .265 WMU hit .138, but out-blocked the hosts 3-1.

SET TWO: The script for the second set started much the way the beginning of the first played out – unforced errors on both sides keeping the match close. A dagger from Chronowski – her fifth of the match – gave the Spartans an 8-7 lead, but Western Michigan went on a 4-1 run to pull ahead 11-9, at which point MSU called timeout. Chronowski came out of the hiatus with a kill and an ace to tie it at 11, but Western went on a 5-0 run (thanks in part to two MSU errors) to go up 16-11. Norris tooled it off the block to stop the Bronco streak, and MSU used a 3-0 run to trim the WMU lead down to two at 17-15. Gros came up with a pair of kills and a block to help MSU get things tied up at 17's and 18's, then teamed up with Shklyar on another block to give the Spartans their first lead. Western battled back and tied things up at 22-22, but a nice recovery from Norris fed Molly Johnson on the left side led to a Chronowski ace, then the sophomore finished off the set with a laser that finished off a long rally and kissed the back left corner of the court to secure a 25-22 victory. Gros had four kills and four block, while Chronowski had four kills and three digs along with a solo block. MSU was out-blocked in the first frame, but put up five to one for WMU in the second.

SET THREE: The visitors ran off to a 10-3 lead in the third set, reeling off six kills on their first nine swings. MSU trimmed the lead down to 11-7, but a 5-1 run for the Broncos allowed the visitors to double up the Spartans at 16-8. The WMU became nine at 20-11 after MSUs eighth service error of the match. Elizabeth Phillips closed out the set for her team with a pair of big kills, as the Broncos won 25-14. Phillips had four kills to five for Rachel Bontrager, as WMU hit a match-best .375 (12-3-24) as compared to .138 (10-6-29) for the Spartans, who had 15 kills in each of the first two sets. Johnson and Norris each had three kills for the Spartans, while Gros picked up two more blocks to push her match total to seven.

SET FOUR: Western rode the momentum from a third-set victory into a 6-3 lead in the fourth frame, but the Spartans put together a 7-1 run to turn a three-point deficit into a three-point lead at 10-7, all on a Samantha McLean scoring run, which included an ace. After a WMU time out, the Spartans continued to roll, pushing their lead to 17-12 and forcing the visitors to call a second time out. At 20-13, Chronowski served up an ace – her third of the night – to make it an eight point game. WMU continued to fight and put together a 5-0 run (three coming on MSU miscues) that brought the Broncos within three at 21-18, and MSU called a time out to regroup. It was all Spartans the rest of the way, including a service ace by Norris on match point. MSU hit just .062 in the set, and four different players had two kills each. Setter Maggie Midgette came off the bench to record four assists, six digs, and a pair of aces.

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