EAST LANSING, Mich. – The 2008 Michigan State volleyball squad earned its ninth win in a row after topping Ohio State 3-1 (25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23) Friday in the Big Ten Conference opener night at the Breslin Center. Junior middle blocker Vanessa King (Spring Lake, Mich.) paced the Spartans with 13 kills while freshman Kyndra Abron (Livonia, Mich.) added a career-best 10 kills, helping the Spartans earn their first conference victory in 2008.
"It was really nice to have a lot of people here, playing a Breslin," King said. "It is such a different environment, so it was really fun. You could really feel the energy in this building, it was fun."
The Spartans would struggle to find their stride early in the first set, until a block by sophomore Jenilee Rathje (Mount Pleasant, Mich.) energized the Spartans, cutting the Buckeye lead to 18-13. The Spartan defense came alive at that point, as the Buckeyes could not get the ball through the Spartan block or past libero Allyson Karaba (Muskegon, Mich.). The defensive effort sparked a 13-3 Spartan run. The Buckeyes, who led 18-10 at one point, found themselves trailing 23-21 late in the set.
MSU would close the set on a 15-4 run, due to the play of King and the rest of the Spartan offense. King would register four kills on just four swings while adding four block assists to lead the Spartans to the 25-22 win. As a team, the Spartans tallied six blocks in the first set, their highest in a set all season. Karaba pitched in five digs while Rathje added three kills and two block assists.
The second set would go back and forth until Rathje tallied a kill to extend the Spartan advantage to 8-6. Things would stay tight from there as the teams would draw to a 16-16 tie. From that point, MSU would close on a 9-4 run, winning the set 25-20. Rathje came alive in the second set, totaling six kills while hitting .364 to lead the Spartans. As a team, MSU hit .406 in the second set. Freshman setter Natalie Emro (Wildwood, Mo.) was a big reason for the Spartans efficient attack, handing out 15 assists in the set, moving her match total to 23.
The third set would begin in a fashion similar to the second as neither team could build more than a two-point advantage. OSU would rally late to take a 23-21 advantage. The Spartans showed perseverance, coming within one point of tying the match at 24, but could not overcome the longest rally of the evening, as OSU would take the third set, 25-23. Through three sets, King led all Spartan hitters with 11 kills on just 16 attempts. Her .562 hitting percentage was also a match-high.
The fourth set saw OSU come out strong, building a four-point lead at 11-7. The Buckeyes would carry that lead until the 23-30 mark. MSU would run off five-straight to win the set and the match.
The Spartans held OSU to a .139 hitting percentage on the evening, tallying 13 blocks. Emro had another fine performance, handing out 43 helpers while tallying eight kills.
The Spartans will square off against arch-rival Michigan tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. in the second installment of "Bust Breslin," as the program looks to break the 12-year old attendance record of 4,937. The match will be featured on the Big Ten Network while live stats and audio, featuring the voice of the Spartans John Kreger, can be found at www.msuspartans.com. Former Spartan Jenny (Rood) Bedford will also be on hand to sing the National Anthem before the match.