Michigan State captured the 2018 Carolina Classic title with a 3-1 win over North Carolina (22-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-19). Tournament MVP Naya Gros had a career-best 15 kills, hit .500, and added four blocks, while senior captain Maddie Haggerty had 13 kills and nine digs.
The Spartans held a 22-17 edge in the opening set before the homestanding Tar Heels put together an 8-0 run to take the first set 25-22. It was a teachable moment and learning experience all in one for MSU, which did not allow the home team to do the same in the ensuing sets. MSU rallied for three straight set wins to take the match victory, its fifth straight to improve to 5-1 on the year.
The match was an entertaining one for the crowd of 2,031, as the two teams engaged in a battle that went back and forth for four sets. MSU out-blocked their hosts 12-9, and hit .217 to UNC’s .106.
Alyssa Chronowski joined Gros on the All-Tournament team, and had eight kills, three blocks, four digs, and a pair of aces in the finale vs. UNC. Rebecka Poljan came off the bench to record a team and season-best seven blocks. Setter Elena Shklyar had 44 assists, four digs, three blocks, and two kills.
Michigan State heads east next weekend to play at the Fairfield Invitational, where the team will take on Northeastern, Harvard, Central Connecticut, and host Fairfield.
“We let that first set get away from us when we had a lead, which is frustrating – but a teachable moment with this young team. What was more important was how we responded to that. UNC is a very good team that kept us on our toes – we had to be sharp and purposeful. We would build a small lead and they would fire right back at us – so I think it was really good for us in terms of building experience and handling adversity.”
– Head Coach Cathy George
• Naya Gros had a career-best 15 kills and hit .500 (15-3-24), adding four blocks, earning Tournament MVP honors.
• Maddie Haggerty just missed a double-double with 13 kills and nine digs, adding three assists and an ace.
• Rebecka Poljan came off the bench to record a season-best seven blocks and added seven kills.
STATS AND STORYLINES
• Alyssa Chronowski joined Gros on the All-Tournament Team.
• MSU won its fifth straight match and improves to 5-1 overall.
• The Spartans had their fourth double-digit blocking effort of the season with 12.
• SET ONE: MSU jumped out to a six-point edge at 10-5 with the help from three big swings from senior Maddie Haggerty, all on her own service run. The Spartans held on to the five-point advantage to the media time out at 15-10, at which point Maddie Haggerty had four kills on five swings to lead MSU. Out of the break, the Heels went on a 6-2 run to pull within a pair, getting a pair of blocks and two kills to force the Spartans to call their first time out up 18-16. Michigan State regrouped and pushed its lead back to five at 22-17, but a couple of MU errors followed by two daggers from the back row by Destiny Cox brought UNC within one, 22-21. Out of the time out, UNC scored three straight points to finish the set on a 8-0 run and take a 25-22 win and a 1-0 match lead. Haggerty and Gros each had four kills, but MSU’s hitting went cold late as the Spartans finished with 13 kills against eight errors (.132). UNC had five kills from Destiny Cox and hit .219 in the set with an identical 13 kills (but just six errors).
• SET TWO: Rebecka Poljan replaced Hatcher in the second set, and the freshman recorded two blocks in the first three points of the frame. The home team staked an early 6-3 lead, but MSU got back within a point on a back to back kills by Shklyar and Gros, then tied it 7-7 on a swing by Chronowski. That started a nice service run for Maddie Haggerty, who started it off with an ace and then got kills from Gros and Chronowski to make it 10-7 MSU. The Spartans got their lead out to four points at 15-11, and UNC called time out to regroup, but Chronowski didn’t allow them to capitalize – she served up back-to-back aces to give MSU a six-point edge, and UNC called its second time out. Both teams went on mini-runs, but MSU re-established its five-point edge at 22-17. A call on the floor on a Chronowski attempt was reviewed for a touch, and it was overruled to make it a Spartan point, bringing MSU to 23-19. Poljan got the Spartans to set point, but despite the Tar Heels fending it off, MSU captured the set 25-20 to knot the match at 1-1. MSU hit .364 in the set (17-5-33). Gros led MSU with five kills in the set, while Poljan had three to go with her team-best two blocks.
• SET THREE: Another battle between the teams ensued early in the third, as a 4-1 MSU lead became a 6-5 advantage. MSU pulled away to make it 11-7 as the Spartans picked up two blocks and were aided by a pair of UNC errors. Both teams continued to take big swings, exciting the crowd equally with the thunderous kills and impressive defensive prowess on both sides of the net. MSU pushed its lead back to four at 18-14 on a pair of kills from Haggerty and a block from Shklyar and Gros; the Tar Heels reeled off four straight points on a kill by Taylor Atherton, a block by Ava Bell, an ace, and an MSU error that tied it at 18-18. MSU called time out – its second – and proceeded to roll off a 5-1 run (including the overturn of a touch call on a challenge) to make it 23-19. Pojlan picked up a block to get to set point and a kill that sealed it for the 25-19 win. Poljan had four kills in the set to share the team lead with Haggerty (four digs) and Johnson. MSU also had four blocks to push its match total to seven, and hit .355 (16-5-31) to UNC’s .088.
• SET FOUR: The Spartans started the fourth by surging out to a 8-4 lead, helped by a kill and a pair of blocks from Gros. The Tar Heels tied it up at 8-8, and after MSU built back to a three-point edge, the home team cut it to one at 12-11. The Spartans went on a 6-0 run, fueled by three UNC errors and a pair of blocks by Poljan, which pushed her to a season-best six points at the mid-point of the frame. UNC called its final time out at 18-11, and with MSU leading 21-14, the teams traded service errors. Gros’ 15th kill followed by a back-row swing by Haggerty for her 13th got the Spartans to match point. Trying to fend off match point, a shot from Wine sailed long and out of bounds to give MSU the set and match victory. Haggerty and Gros each had three kills in the final frame, while Poljan and Johnson each had three blocks.
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