EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State had rarely been challenged this season. That changed Saturday, when Virginia Commonwealth University traded blows with the Spartans in a pesky, inspired effort before MSU emerged with a 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-21) win at the Spartan Invitational at Jenison Field House.
Michigan State's Jenilee Rathje led all players with 20 kills and Kyndra Abron chipped in with 15.
Action in the match was fast and furious and offense was in ample supply. Michigan State (10-1) hit .308 in the contest, including a .467 mark in the second set, followed by .400 in the third. VCU was nearly as good, hitting .279 for the match.
Prior to Saturday, Michigan State had lost just three sets all season, and all of those came in a 3-1 loss to Bowling Green. The Rams did not look intimidated, however.
Boyd and junior Anett Farkas (Budapest, Hungary) combined for 11 kills in the first set and VCU hit .379 on the way to a heart-pounding, 25-23 win. Michigan State rallied from a 21-18 deficit to tie the set at 22-all, but Farkas provided a kill and assisted on a block two plays later to give the Rams a 24-23 edge. On the ensuing play, Rathje's errant attack sealed the deal for VCU.
The second set was more of the same. VCU led 9-6 early, but the Spartans battled back to take an 18-14 lead on the way to a 25-19 win.
In the third, VCU slipped behind, 17-11 before staging a furious rally to pull within 21-20 on a Boyd kill. The Spartans surged again to 24-20, only to have the Rams pull within 24-23 behind Boyd and Farkas kills. Only after Rathje blasted a kill coming out of a Michigan State timeout could the Spartans breathe a sigh of relief.
In the fourth, Michigan State again built a sizable lead at 17-12, only to watch VCU battle back. Consecutive blocks by the Rams, both involving junior Jasmine Waters (Landover, Md.), as well as a Farkas kill, trimmed the MSU lead to 17-16. But Rathje spiked three kills in a four-play span as the Spartans built a 21-16 cushion on the way to the 25-21 win.
VCU returns to the floor later Saturday, when it meets Ball State at 5:30 p.m. at Jenison Field House before returning home to Richmond.