Wednesday, January 19, 2022

MSU shines in Classic, finishes undefeated

September 4, 2001
Sophomore setter Nikki Colson celebrates the volleyball team —

The MSU volleyball team can check one goal off its to-do list after winning all four of its matches at this weekend’s MSU Volleyball Classic at Jenison Field House.

“To win this tournament on our home court was a big goal of ours,” senior outside hitter Erin Hartley said.

The Spartans defeated Auburn 3-1 and Dayton 3-1 on Friday and capped the tournament with 3-1 victories against Denver and Western Michigan on Saturday.

“These early season victories will help the team become more sure of itself,” sophomore setter Nikki Colson said.

“It’s an incredible confidence booster. The only way you gain more confidence is by beating good teams.”

A collection of break-out individual performances made MSU bigger, stronger and faster than its opponents. Spartan players led five of the six individual statistical categories - kills, digs, assists, blocks and aces.

Junior outside hitter Kyla Smith was the tournament’s most valuable player after leading the tournament in digs-per-game, averaging 3.19. She also finished in second in kills-per-game with 3.81.

But Smith hasn’t always raked in praise for her play, Spartan head coach Chuck Erbe said.

“She really struggled her first two years, and now all her hard work is paying off,” Erbe said. “She’s just solid right now, solid in every phase of her game.”

Smith joined Hartley and Colson - who recorded a tournament-best 13.06 assists-per-game - on the All-Tournament Team.

Hartley had tournament-leading

stats with 4.13 kills-per-game and 1.19 blocks-per-game.

“It means a lot to me,” Hartley said. “It’s been one of my personal goals to be All-Tournament Team.”

Junior defensive specialist Emily

Engel also starred, averaging 1.37

aces-per-game. Engel twice tied the tournament record of aces in a match with seven aces against both Denver and Western Michigan.

Her play directly contributed to the tournament win, Erbe said.

“It’s a major factor in our success,” he said. “It’s a huge plus when you’ve got somebody that can run five or six points at the beginning of a match.”

Overall, the Spartans’ aggressive serving resulted in a tournament-best 3.31 aces-per-game.

Saturday’s games were played without the help of senior defensive specialist and co-captain Lisa Ashton. Ashton was nursing a back injury that kept her out of some of last week’s practices.

Sophomore Stephanie Knopp stepped in for Ashton in her first start and served eight aces against Denver and Western Michigan.

“I thought Stephanie Knopp came in and did a phenomenal job in her first start,” Erbe said. “She sustained her play throughout the day and played well for us.”

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