Where: Lexington, KY, Memorial Coliseum
When: Friday — 12-13-13 5:00 p.m. ET
The Buzz on Michigan State: The good news is, Penn State and Michigan State split their two matches this season, with the Nittany Lions posting the more dominant win — 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-20) on November 2nd in East Lansing, and the Spartans downing Penn State 3-2 (23-35, 24-26, 25-19, 25-19, 9-15) on September 27th in State College. The bad news is, Penn State and Michigan State split their two matches this season, so the Spartans know they can beat the Nittany Lions.
In Penn State’s November 2nd victory, the Nittany Lions registered a team .451 attack %, while holding Michigan State to a .182 attack %. Penn State committed only 5 attack errors and 5 service errors, compared to Michigan State’s 22 attack errors and 9 service errors. Blocking showed the same Penn State dominance, as the Nittany Lions had 8 total blocks compared to 3 for Michigan State. In the Spartan’s September 27th win, Michigan State totaled 22 attack errors — but in that match, so did Penn State — Penn State had a .307 team attack % compared to .244 for the Spartans, and Michigan State barely out blocked the Nittany Lions 11.0 to 10.5.
So overall, Penn State has had the better of it statistically, but the only statistic that matters is Won-Lost record, and there, the two teams are tied.
On offense, the Spartans have been led by 6-1 Sr. OH Lauren Wicinski (4.47 kills/set, .253 attack %), 6-4 Fr. OH Chloe Reinig (2.61 kills/set, .208 attack %), and 6-3 Sr. MB Alexis Mathews (2.20 kills/set, .404 attack %). Mathews leads the team with 1.52 blocks/set, followed by 6-2 Fr. MB Allyssah Fitterer (0.76 blocks/set), and Chloe Reinig (0.72 blocks/set). Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Kori Moster, the 5-4 Jr. libero for the Spartans, averages an eye-popping 4.66 digs/set. She really is that good.
For those who are into “What have you done for me lately?” Michigan State has gone 5-5 in its last five matches, including its two wins in the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament:
Michigan State Pre-Regional Press Conference
Michigan State Head Coach Cathy George
On the key to defeating Penn State …… “Well I don’t know if there is really one key. I think it’s going to be two teams that are going to be battle-ready. They are going to be looking at each other to gain access to the next round, so you are going to have two extremely hungry teams. Penn State has been eyeing that national championship, no doubt. We are looking to get on to the next round and continue as well. You are not going to surprise anybody at this time of the year. Everybody is prepared and everyone is ready to go. I think, for us, we just have to stay tough and know that Penn State is going to do some great things and we just need to keep pushing on it and continue to answer back with what we know we do well – and make sure that is where the game is controlled, and not stress over things you can’t.”
(See the complete interview, along with player interviews, below, courtesy www.msuspartans.com)
The Buzz on Penn State: After its sweep of Utah (25-14, 25-15, 25-11), #2 overall seed Penn State (30-2) has won 21 consecutive matches, with an all-time record of 79-26 in the NCAA Tournament. For the season, 6-4 Sr. RS/Opp Ariel Scott leads the team with 3.18 kills/set (.282 attack %), 6-1 Sr. OH Deja McClendon is second with 2.92 kills/set (.281 attack %), 6-2 So. OH Megan Courtney is third at 2.57 kills/set (.292 attack %), 6-6 Sr. MH Katie Slay averages 2.12 kills/set (.404 attack %), and 6-2 Jr. MH Nia Grant averages 1.85 kills/set (.388 attack %). 5-11 Jr. setter Micha Hancock has directed the team to a .314 attack % — third-best in NCAA Division 1 (the Nittany Lions have held their opponents to .131 hitting). As a team, Penn State is averaging 3.10 blocks/set, which leads the NCAA in that category (Michigan State’s 2.63 blocks/set ranks 38th in the NCAA). Slay has averaged 1.64 blocks/set (third-best in the NCAA), followed by Ariel Scott (0.87 blocks/set), Nia Grant (0.84 blocks/set), Megan Courtney (0.73 blocks/set), and Deja McClendon (0.63 blocks/set). Dominique Gonzalez leads Penn State with 3.17 digs/set, followed by Deja McClendon (2.87 digs/set), Megan Courtney (2.35 digs/set), and Micha Hancock (2.14 digs/set).
The Bottom Line: DigNittany: In Penn State’s November 2nd victory, Penn State committed only 5 attack errors and 5 service errors, compared to Michigan State’s 22 attack errors and 9 service errors. Blocking showed the same Penn State dominance, as the Nittany Lions had 8 total blocks compared to 3 for Michigan State. In the Spartan’s September 27th win, Michigan State totaled 22 attack errors — but in that match, so did Penn State. Michigan State barely out blocked the Nittany Lions 11.0 to 10.5. Coach Rose (and probably most coaches) constantly preaches the importance of keeping errors to a minimum, and the difference between the two matches arguably lay right there. Michigan State made a lot of errors in both matches. Penn State made a lot of errors in the first match, and not so many in the second match. Obviously, the first match was early in the season, so part of the difference probably can be attributed to maturation of the team generally. Any other factors that may have contributed to the turnaround for the Nittany Lions?
Club Coach: I think settling into a line-up, ball control improving and probably a lot of accountability for errors in practice are the biggest factors in the reduction of errors. One of the things I think many people don’t realize is that Penn State is a very sound defensive team that takes really good care of the ball offensively. Given the size and quality of their athletes, I think many assume they are JUST overwhelming teams physically. This is a team that takes care of the ball well, and does a lot of little things well too. I will be very surprised if PSU doesn’t win this match in 3. Why? They have better players! It isn’t rocket science.
Penn State Pre-Regional Press Conference
“They [Michigan State] had some great wins this year and one of those was beating us when we were No. 1
in the country. I shouldn’t have to say much to our players about the strengths and merits of playing Michigan State. The record this year is 1-1, so this match gives [the teams] the opportunity to play another match. And Deja needs to upgrade her winning record in the state of Kentucky.” Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose in the Pre-Regionals interview in Lexington Kentucky.
(See the complete interview, along with player interviews, below, courtesy GoPSUsports.com):
Stat Joust (Differential Equations)
Stat Joust - Penn State vs. Michigan State: Attack (12-12-13)
Stat Joust - Penn State vs. Michigan State: Serving (12-12-13)
Stat Joust - Penn State vs. Michigan State: Blocking (12-12-13)