Friday, April 19, 2024

Spikers begin play in NCAA tournament

December 1, 2000

MSU volleyball kicks off its seventh-consecutive NCAA tournament this weekend at UCLA.

The Spartans (17-12) will play Wisconsin-Milwaukee (23-4) on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA 2000 Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.

The match starts at 8 p.m., immediately following the first-round match between host No. 3 seed UCLA (22-7) and Morgan State (17-12).

MSU head coach Chuck Erbe said the tournament is a completely new season. He said it’s a fresh start for everyone and no one can be overlooked.

“When you get to the tournament everybody’s worked really hard to get there and everybody’s starting from scratch,” he said. “My attitude is that you play it one game at a time.”

He said Wisconsin-Milwaukee doesn’t play the same level of talent that MSU regularly faces, but added that’s no reason not to focus on the Panthers.

“We really can’t overlook Wisconsin-Milwaukee,” he said. “The thing we all have to be careful of is not to plan on playing UCLA too early. We still have to take care of business on Saturday.”

Erbe said MSU has a noticeable size advantage, with seven Spartans more than 6 feet tall, compared to Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s one.

“We’ve definitely got the size advantage,” he said. “Their best player is something like 5-7.”

Wisconsin-Milwaukee outside hitter Laura Dallenbach is only 5-foot-7, but she does lead the Panthers with 4.14 kills per game.

Comparatively, MSU junior outside hitter Erin Hartley is 6-foot-3.

Erbe said Hartley has improved her game significantly during the past few weeks. He said she’s playing as well as anyone on the team right now.

“I’ve never been more ready myself for the tournament,” Hartley said. “I’m fired up and ready to get into the tournament and I think the team is as well.”

Hartley said she feels completely rejuvenated. She said MSU will be ready.

Add to the mix senior middle hitter Sarah Gustin, who was named to her second consecutive All-Big Ten team Monday, and the Spartans’ level of talent is high.

“I don’t think there’s any talent lacking on this team,” Erbe said. “We just don’t cross the mental barrier. They’re just going to have to get better mentally if they want to play against top-level opponents.”

Gustin said the mental barrier is an issue. She said being mentally prepared for the tournament is a must because there’s no room for error.

“Individually we each have to be ready for what’s going to come in the tournament,” she said. “Upperclassmen have to help the freshmen with that. They need to understand that one loss and we’re out.”

Erbe said MSU’s senior class will be playing in its fourth tournament. He said that’s a great accomplishment, adding the Spartans have a good mixture of experience and talent.

“There’s not many players in all sports that can say that,” he said. “I’m very proud of them. I expect them to drive the machine.”

Hartley said she isn’t worried about anything. She said she has faith in the Spartans pulling everything together.

“I feel pretty good about it,” she said. “We’ll do our best and that’s all we can do. I have faith in our team that we’ll work hard and that we’ll put it together for the tournament.”

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