After a shaky win against Duquesne earlier in the day, MSU (11-1 overall) bounced back to beat Cincinnati, 3-0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-19) to take the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational title.
Senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski, who cracked 2,000 career kills during the tournament, was named tournament MVP. She had 52 kills, seven service aces, 24 digs and five blocks over the course of the tournament. Junior outside hitter Taylor Galloway and senior setter Kristen Kelsay took home All-Tournament team honors.
“We just played really well as a team today,” Wicinski said after the match. “We didn’t feel that we played our best this morning so we wanted to come back out here and learn from our previous match and improve on that.”
Head coach Cathy George said the Spartans learned from Duquesne match. After rolling Duquesne in the first set, they lost focus and lost the second set. They had to grind out the remaining two sets in what was a challenging match for the team.
After going four sets against Duquesne earlier on Saturday, it was encouraging to see MSU regain focus against Cincinnati.
“(Duquesne) got on a roll,” George said. “We made some adjustments to our lineup, they got on a roll. We didn’t handle it as well, and as smoothly as we needed to, we talked about that so that tonight we would do a better job at that.”
With the Spartan Invitational being the last preseason tournament, George stated earlier in the week that she wanted to use the weekend to fine-tune a few weaknesses before Big Ten play begins.
She admitted that the team didn’t necessarily accomplish that, as evident in the tense game against Duquesne. However, she did use the weekend to dig deep into her rotation and get another look at what her roster is capable of.
“We got the chance to play a lot of people and get them ready for what’s next and make sure we have the adjustments that we need,” George said. “Anybody that we need to play we have gotten in, they’re getting a little bit more comfortable, that’s important. And putting people in situations where they have to do different things.”
Sophomore setter Halle Peterson and freshman outside hitter Chloe Reinig both returned from injury during the tournament. MSU will play No. 1 Penn State next Friday, so their return to the lineup couldn’t be more timely.
With the team showing improvement week-after-week, Kelsay said that the return of Reinig and Chloe will make the team better going forward. However, their absence forced George to put players into new roles, and Kelsay believes the flexibility will also help the team as the season goes on.
“We’ve had everyone kind of playing every role for us us, which is important because as you go through a season you’re going to have injuries, and I think it’s important to find that flexibility now,” Kelsay said. “We got a lot of people in this weekend. The more people that are ready to go when Big Ten season starts, the better we are.”