Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Erbe: respect for opponenets key in tournament

September 7, 2001

Listening to Spartan volleyball players and coaches talk, you’d think they were rehearsing an Aretha Franklin song.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Head coach Chuck Erbe knows those seven letters are embedded in the minds of his players as they look to make it two tournament titles in a row at the Coca-Cola Spartan Invitational this weekend.

“I’ve always told them the first rule of war is to respect your opponent,” Erbe said. “And they all know that.”

The Spartans (4-0) won the MSU Volleyball Classic at Jenison Field House last weekend and will now tangle up with Winthrop (S.C.) (1-2) at 2 p.m. and with Idaho (2-1) at 8 p.m. The tournament concludes 8 p.m. Saturday with MSU and Bowling Green (3-0) going head-to-head.

Although the Spartans have momentum riding into the weekend, they are being cautious about overlooking opponents, junior outside hitter Kyla Smith.

“The best way to win is to always respect your opponent,” she said.

But junior middle blocker Angela Morley said the team isn’t quite sure what to think about its opponents anyway - it knows little about Winthrop, Idaho or Bowling Green.

“We have no idea what any of them are going to be like,” she said. “But I think we play better when we have more confidence in ourselves.”

And with little background on the other teams to worry about, Erbe said he is focusing completely on straightening out loose ends on his team.

“At this stage of the season you really just focus on yourself,” he said.

“It’s really only going to come down to who serves the best, who passes the best, who plays the best defense, who handles the ball best and who’s the most consistent attacking team.”

Those players may not be veterans, either.

Freshman outside hitter Kim Schram will debut today, after sitting out last weekend to recover from physical and emotional exhaustion that resulted from her participation in the Canada Games, Erbe said.

“Kim’s probably going to see her first action this weekend and probably play against Winthrop,” Erbe said.

She’ll join starters Smith, last weekend’s most valuable player, and freshman Michelle Kopka at outside hitter. Freshman outside hitter Diana Steplyk may also grab some floor time for the first time in her collegiate career, Erbe said.

“I’ll take a look at Steplyk,” he said. “She’s been making some improvements.”

The addition of Schram adds depth at outside hitter and allows for Erbe to rest Smith, who has been suffering with painful abdominal muscles. Also on the injured list is sophomore setter Nikki Colson, who is expected to play despite shin splints.

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