Volleyball Holds Off Stubborn UCF for 3-0 Win

Spartans improve record to 2-0 on the season.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Michigan State volleyball team (2-0) continued its winning ways early in the 2011 season with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-22) win over UCF on Friday, Aug. 26 during game two of the UCF Classic. Senior Natalie Emro and sophomore Alexis Mathews recorded six blocks each against the Knights.

The Spartans opened up set one strong by gaining the first point of the match prior to gaining a 3-1 lead following a big block by Emro. A thunderous kill by senior Kyndra Abron made it 5-2. Senior Jenilee Rathje made it 6-3 with a deep ball in the zone for a kill. MSU began to face adversity as it became a 9-8 set. The Green and White remained poised as the set became 13-9 with UCF calling a timeout following an attack error. A loud blast by Abron brings the score to 16-12. Junior Amy Dentlinger capped off MSU’s run with a block down the line to cause the second UCF timeout of the set. The score became 20-13 in favor of the Spartans after an attack error by UCF. A timely kill by Rathje made it 22-15 before set point was forced by a Knights’ hitting error. Abron capped off the set with a nice kill down the line to give the Green and White a 25-19 first set win. Rathje and Abron each had three kills to open up the match for MSU. Rathje also led the team in digs with five.

Set two opened once again with MSU gaining the early 1-0 advantage. After back-to-back kills by Abron to make the lead 3-2, the Spartans fell into trouble at 6-6. The Green and White remained poised and took the 9-7 lead which was capped off by a big kill by Dentlinger, forcing UCF into a timeout. The Knights tied the set back up at 11-11, before MSU finally gained some separation at 16-12. An attack error at 16-12 by UCF caused it to call its final timeout of the set. Three straight kills from sophomore Kelsey Kuipers in the middle made it a 20-12 contest. The Spartans capped off set two with a block by Emro and Mathews to bring the score to 25-17. Kuipers led MSU with five kills during set two.

After dropping the opening point of the final set, Emro and Mathews put the Spartans out in front with three consecutive blocks down the line to make the score 3-1. After MSU got the score to 6-3 following a service ace by sophomore Kristen Kelsay, UCF gained its first lead of the match at 8-7. MSU regained the lead before it trailed the Knights once again at 16-13, causing MSU to call its first timeout of the weekend. The Spartans rattled off five of the next seven points to tie the set at 18-18. A set error by UCF allowed the Green and White to regain the lead at 20-19. A kill by Rathje down the line forced a timeout from the Knights at 21-19. UCF called its final timeout two points later at 22-20 after the Knights committed an attack error. Michigan State never looked back as it closed out the match and set three, 25-22. Rathje’s four kills led the team during set three.

Defensively senior Carli Weiler led the Spartans with 16 digs. Emro dished out a team-best 19 assists along with a service ace. Rathje posted a team-high 10 kills.

The Spartans conclude the opening weekend at the UCF Classic with a 5 p.m. contest against South Alabama in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 27.