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Michigan State Battles No. 2 Nebraska, But Falls 3-2 in NCAA Regional Semifinal



MADISON, Wis. - The Michigan State volleyball team dropped a heartbreaker to No. 2 and defending national champion Nebraska tonight at the UW Field House in Madison, Wis. A total of 3,562 fans saw the Spartans jump out to a 2-0 lead, only to fall 3-2 (30-25, 30-28, 17-30, 28, 30, 9-15) after the Huskers fought back. MSU ends the 2007 season with a 21-14 record, while Nebraska (30-1) moves onto the NCAA Regional Final to face California tomorrow.


Seniors Katie Johnson (Brooklyn, Mich./Columbia Central) and Ashley Schatzle (Monroe, Mich./Monroe) closed out their collegiate careers with a pair of double-doubles. Johnson posted a game-high 24 kills and tied a career-high with 13 assists, while Schatzle had 21 kills and 13 digs for her 20th double-double of the season. Freshman Jenilee Rathje (Mount Pleasant, Mich./Mount Pleasant) tied a career-high with 13 kills and classmate Lauren O’Reilly (Langley, British Columbia/Pacific Academy) dished out 53 assists. Leading the Spartans’ defensive effort, senior Miken Trogdon (Lisle, Ill./Wheaton St. Francis) led the squad with a game-high and career-best 23 digs.


The Spartans jumped put early in the match and took game one, 30-25. The two schools went back and forth early, leading to a 5-5 score. However, from that point MSU took control, led by a 5-0 run, paced by three Schatzle kills, to open up a 10-5 advantage. After matching side outs, three-straight points by the Spartans, capped by two Johnson kills, gave MSU a 15-8 edge. Two-straight Husker points were followed by four answered by the Spartans to give them their biggest lead of the game at 19-10. Matching side outs kept the MSU margin comfortable, but a 6-1 Nebraska run cut the score to 24-21. The Spartans withheld the pressure and did not let the Huskers get any closer, as a block by Schatzle and sophomore Vanessa King (Spring Lake, Mich./Spring Lake) gave Michigan State the 30-25 game one win. The Spartans hit .326 in the first game, led by nine kills and a .500 hitting percentage by Johnson. Schatzle added five kills and Trogdon had five digs.


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Michigan State opened up an early lead, then was forced to come from behind late, to take game two, 30-28. The Spartans opened the game by scoring the first five points, on two kills, two blocks and an ace, and held onto the lead until 17-16, when a 6-1 run put the Huskers ahead for the first time. Three-straight kills by the Spartans put them back ahead, but it was short-lived as a 9-4 Nebraska run put the Huskers ahead 26-23. After a pair of side outs kept the NU lead at three (27-24), the Spartans failed to quit as they took the next five points to retake the lead, 29-27. The run was started by back-to-back kills by both Johnson and Schatzle. The Huskers stayed alive by scoring the next point, but an attack error by Nebraska ended game two, 30-28. Schatzle and Johnson each had seven kills in the game, as O’Reilly dished out 17 assists. Trogdon led the Spartan defensive effort with 10 digs as the team posted 27 digs in the game.


Nebraska dominated game three, taking it, 30-17. Right away, the Huskers opened up a 11-5 lead, but a short 5-2 run by MSU brought the deficit to 13-10. NU followed by taking six of the next seven points for a controlling 19-11 advantage. The Spartans tried to chip away, but with the score, 23-17, the Huskers scored the last seven points to take the game. Rathje led the Spartans with four kills.


In a game four battle, the Huskers kept the match alive by taking the game, 30-28. There were eight ties early leading to a 10-10 score. The Spartans would run off four consecutive points, only to have Nebraska match them and re-tie the score at 14. A 3-1 spirt by MSU put them back ahead, but NU followed with a 7-0 run of their own to open up a 22-17 advantage. The Spartans would slowly chip away at the margin, finally tying it back up at 25-all on a Johnson kill. After two NU points, another Johnson kill put the game at 27-26. A side out by the Huskers was followed by two Spartan points to tie the game at 28. However, the Huskers would close out the game with the final two points for the win. Schatzle and Johnson each had five kills in the game.


Nebraska closed out the match and took game five, 15-9. The Huskers scored the first two points and nine of the first 12 to take control of the decisive game. The Spartans would fight back to get within four at 12-8, but could get no closer as NU posted three of the last four points.


The Huskers, who have only dropped 10 games all season, were led by four student-athletes in double-figures. Jordan Larson led the team with 20 kills, while Sarah Pavan added 18. Rachel Holloway had 62 assists and Kayla Banwarth dug 21 balls.