Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Coca-Cola tournament wins give Spartans best start since 1989

September 10, 2001
Sophomore outside hitter Stephanie Knopp plunges for a spike from a Winthrop player during Friday —

Senior outside hitter Erin Hartley is no stranger to personal accolades.

She can now add most valuable player of the Coca-Cola Spartan Invitational to her list of individual accomplishments, after she led the Spartans (7-0) to another undefeated weekend and tournament title at Jenison Field House.

MSU hasn’t started the season 7-0 since 1989.

Spartan head coach Chuck Erbe said Hartley is playing at a level he has never witnessed.

“Erin Hartley played the best weekend of volleyball I have ever seen,” he said. “She was almost error-free in every single area of the game.”

The Spartans rolled through the tournament defeating Winthrop 3-1 and Idaho 3-0 on Friday. The team completed the three match sweep Saturday night with a 3-0 win against Bowling Green (5-1).

Sophomore middle blocker Jenny Rood said the team had an agenda for the weekend - and the team took care of it.

“This team came out with a goal, perseverance and an attitude saying ‘this is what we’re going to do and this is how we’re going to do it,’” she said.

The Spartans were as high on the tournament’s individual statistical leaders lists as they were in the standings.

Hartley led the tournament with a .536 hitting percentage, an average of 5.1 kills per game and 3.6 digs per game. Sophomore setter Nikki Colson led the invitational in assists with 13.8 per game and junior defensive specialist Emily Engel added a tournament best 0.9 aces per game.

Colson and Rood made the All-Tournament team with Hartley.

Both MSU and Bowling Green went undefeated Friday, to land in Saturday’s tournament’s championship game. The Spartans ended the Falcon’s run by winning 30-25, 30-26, 30-24

MSU overpowered a shorter Bowling Green (5-1) team during its sweep. Hartley led the way with a team-high 19 kills, and hit a .593 attack percentage. Junior outside hitter Kyla Smith had 10 kills as well.

Colson credited her 45 assists to the Spartans’ best passing effort of the season, she said.

“We really came together passing this weekend,” Colson said, “and that makes my job so much easier.”

The performance up front keyed the Spartan’s win, Bowling Green head coach Denise Van De Walle said.

“I thought Michigan State played very well at the net,” she said. “I felt it was hard for us, and we were struggling to get the ball past their size.”

That was no mistake, either, Erbe said.

“I thought we did a great job executing a game plan,” he said. “We took a lot of things away from them.

“We played steady, consistently and pretty error-free volleyball.”

Friday evening’s match with the Idaho Vandals (3-3) will also go down in the record books.

Not only did the Spartans tie a school record for team blocks in a three-game match with 18, but the three game sweep of Idaho (30-17, 30-28, 30-14) was the 500th win in Spartan volleyball history.

Junior middle blocker Angela Morley said together, she and Hartley are a force at the net.

“I think Erin and I put up a huge block,” she said. “It’s hard to get anything through us.”

Smith led the team with 16 kills against Idaho, while Hartley had 12 and hit over .500 on the attack.

The Spartans also defeated Winthrop on Friday, 30-23, 27-30, 30-21, 30-22. Hartley led the team with 20 kills and freshman Kim Schram had 19 kills in her first match in a Spartan jersey. Colson served up 63 assists.

Despite the four game win, Erbe wasn’t pleased with the team’s performance against an undermanned Winthrop (2-5) team.

“It was one of those matches were you have everything to lose and not much to gain,” he said. “We didn’t have a good week at practice and it showed in our play.

“I didn’t like the mental effort.”

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