Spartans Sweep Denver to Open 2016
Michigan State opened the 2016 volleyball season with a straight-set victory over Denver (25-13, 25-23, 27-25) in the opening round of the San Diego State Aztec Invitational.The Spartans, 19-14 in 2015, saw its hitting percentage drop in each of the three sets, opening with a hot .394 in the opening frame but struggling through a 14-9-35 effort in the third set. MSU did end up with seven team blocks on the night, and also had seven service errors.
Michigan State (1-0) has two Saturday games on the docket, opening with host San Diego State at 10:30 am PT (1:30 ET), followed by a 4:30 PT match vs. Marist (7:30 ET).
Head Coach Cathy George “I The first game of the season is rarely the prettiest game that you will see in your season, but we did get an opportunity to see and try some things. I thought that we certainly identified some things that we’d like to clean up, but we knew that we were going to see a good Denver team that had been the pre-season favorite in their league and had an opportunity to watch us play when we were both at Washington for the NCAA Tournament. We’ll have a quick turnaround to a 10:30 game tomorrow morning, and with two games on the schedule for Saturday, we will have to get ready pretty quickly for those two matches.”
SET ONE: Denver came out aggressive and jumped out to a 4-1 lead, but the Spartans countered with an 8-1 run – featuring big swings and even bigger blocks – to take the commanding advantage back. MSU was at one point hitting just under 70% (10-1-13), and finished the set hitting .394, with 16 kills on 33 swings and just three errors. Four kills each were recorded for Megan Tompkinsand Chloe Reinig, and Tompkins added a pair of blocks.
SET TWO: The Pioneers kept it closer in the second set, trailing just 15-13 midway through the frame. The Spartans went to their bench to try some different lineups, and got good minutes from Maggie Midgette in her collegiate debut. The Pioneers continued to struggle with hitting, but came up with some big blocks and were aided by some unforced MSU errors to keep it close as the teams were tied at 17-17 and again at 21-21. Knotted at 23, Toliver put down a kill from the left pin to put the Spartans at set point, then aced the Pioneers with a ball into the back right corner to secure the set, 25-23 and a 2-0 lead.
SET THREE: Denver was reenergized in the break, came up with a pair of big blocks, and hit .400 in the early part of the third set to take its first lead of the match and push it out to 13-10, forcing MSU to call its first time out. The Spartans had seven kills and six attacking errors to that point of the frame, but never let Denver string together too many points. Leading
Chloe Reinig led all players in the match with 13 kills, hitting .360 and adding four blocks.
Megan Tompkins was big at the net, contributing four blocks and six kills, hitting .556 and adding a pair of digs.
Alyssa Garvelink had six kills, hit a match-best .556, and also added a block.
Holly Toliver had five kills, five service aces, a match-high 13 digs, and also added three blocks, one solo.
STATS AND STORYLINES
The Spartans have won nine of the 12 season-opening games under head coach Cathy George.
Autumn Bailey made her return to the court after missing all of last season with an injury. She contributed six kills, 10 digs, and added three assists.
The Spartans finished with 10 service errors, countering with seven aces on the night.
Holly Toliver finished with five service aces, just short of her career best of six, set Nov, 28, 2015 vs. Iowa. She was also one shy of her career-best in digs, finishing with 13. She had 14 at Illinois on Oct. 30 last year.
Rachel Minarick had 29 assists, and also had a pair of kills and three digs. Abby Monson had eight digs as the Spartan libero.
The Pioneers, the favorites in the Summit League pre-season poll, hit .185 in the match but came up with 6.5 team blocks, including five from Ruth Okoye (one solo). Kayla Principato had a team-best seven kills, and Piyusha Boteju led her team with 15 assists.