Oct. 12, 2012
Site: East Lansing, Mich. (Jenison Fieldhouse)
Score: Northwestern 3, No. 25 Michigan State 1
Records: NU (13-5, 2-5 Big Ten), MSU (15-4, 3-4 conference)
Next NU Event: Saturday, Oct. 13 -- at (rv) Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.), 6:30 p.m. CT
EAST LANSING, Mich. --Northwestern toppled its first ranked opponent of the season as it took down No. 25 Michigan State in a hostile environment in East Lansing, Mich. Friday night, 3-1 (25-17, 18-25, 25-20, 25-22).
After an impressive first set that the Wildcats won, 25-17, the visitors withstood Michigan State's best punches time and again to win the match, 3-1. It was Northwestern's first win over a top-25 opponent since taking down the second-ranked Nebraska in the 2011 regular-season finale.
Stephanie Holthus was a force on both offense and defense for Northwestern. The outside hitter clobbered a match-high 19 kills and added a match-best 18 digs against the Spartans. Yewande Akanbi added 13 kills for the 'Cats, while Madalyn Shalter led all players with 45 assists.
|[NU head coach Keylor Chan]|
The Wildcats led the first set, 14-10, thanks in large part to the play of middle blocker Savannah Paffen. The sophomore accounted for four of those first 14 points with three kills and a strong solo block. Following a timeout, the Spartans ripped off three straight points to climb back to within a point at 14-13, but a 6-2 run gave NU its biggest lead yet at 20-15 and forced Michigan State to use its final timeout of the frame. NU kept its collective foot on the pedal and claimed victory in the first, 25-17.
Paffen, Holthus and Akanbi all notched four kills in the opening set, while four other Wildcats had one apiece. It marked the first time since Sept. 23 against Minnesota that the Wildcats emerged victoriously from the first set.
The two teams split the first 16 points of the second stanza down the middle, but then MSU orchestrated a 5-2 run to gain a 13-10 lead and force Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan to use his first timeout of the evening to try and squash the momentum.
A short time later, Holthus' second ace of the match pulled Northwestern to within one at 15-14, however the visitors were unable to even the ledger. MSU went on a 4-1 run to take a 21-17 lead. That led Northwestern to use a second timeout, but it was to no avail. Michigan State took the second set, 25-19, to even the match at one set apiece.
The difference between the first and second sets can be found in Northwestern's hitting percentage. In the fist set, NU dominated the Spartans with a mark of .448 (16 kills - 3 errors - 29 attempts) to MSU's .152 (11-6-33). Michigan State improved by 23 points in the second set to hit .175 (13-6-40), while the Wildcats hit just .075 in the second with 10 kills and seven errors.
After a sluggish start to the third set, Northwestern steadily chipped away at its early deficit and eventually grabbed a brief one-point lead at 12-11. After falling behind, the Wildcats rallied again to grab an 18-17 advantage when Paffen and Hannah Crippen came together at the net for a big block that seemed to change the tide of the set. The Wildcats closed the set with authority on a 7-3 run and ending with a thunderous kill from Holthus, her 14th of the match. NU won the third set, 25-20, to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Although its number was not as lofty as the first set, Northwestern got back on track offensively with an attacking clip of .290 (13-4-31). The Spartans, meanwhile, committed nine miscues in the third set, their highest single-set total of the evening.
Michigan State established a slight edge as the team's opened the fourth set of the match. The Spartans grabbed a 15-12 lead, but the Wildcats relented as they had all night long. Northwestern eventually grabbed a 21-20 lead. NU nabbed a two-point lead at 23-21 and never looked back. The Wildcats won the fourth set, 25-22, to take the Big Ten match, 3-1.
Shalter finished the match with 12 digs to move over 1,000 for her Northwestern career. The Ottawa, Ohio, native is the 14th person in Northwestern history to reach the 1,000-dig mark. With a match-high 45 assists Friday, Shalter also became the only the 10th player in NU annals to collect more than 2,000 career assists.
Northwestern will look for its second win of the weekend in a match against the Michigan Wolverines at Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Saturday night. The match will begin at 6:30 p.m. CT.
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