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For the first time since 1996, the Michigan State volleyball team has advanced to the Elite Eight.

Getting to the Final Four, now, will be one heck of a feat.

Next up for the Spartans is top-ranked Penn State, playing on its home court in State College, Pa., no less. Michigan State and Penn State square off at 8 Saturday night.

The Spartans (24-8) advanced to the regional final with a four-game victory over Illinois (23-11) on Friday, winning 25-23, 18-25, 25-17, 29-27.

“It was the battle I think we were expecting from Illinois,” Michigan State coach Cathy George said. “We knew that the match we played in the regular season wasn’t indicative of what they could accomplish. I was so very proud of our players for responding and never backing down.

“Advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament has been something that this group has had their eye on since last December — so its incredibly rewarding to see them continuing on with a chance at a Final Four.”

More: Senior-laden team has MSU volleyball on cusp of Final Four

Michigan State beat Illinois in straight games earlier this season.

Friday’s match was much more competitive, with 36 ties and 20 lead changes.

In Friday’s rematch, Brooke Kranda had 16 kills and two aces, Holly Tolliver had 14 kills, eight digs and two blocks, and Rachel Minarick had 54 assists and 11 digs.

It was Minarick’s fifth match of the season with at least 50 assists. She’s 16 assists shy of becoming Michigan State’s all-time leader.

Michigan State is the lone unseeded team remaining of the final eight. In the early meeting, Penn State won in four games.

Penn State swept Missouri, 25-17, 25-18, 25-19, on Friday to reach the Elite Eight.

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