Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Smith, Colson, Hartley stand out for Spartans, create team balance

September 4, 2001

Good teams usually have one player it can turn to in pressure situations.

Very good teams may have two.

Only lucky teams have three.

MSU volleyball head coach Chuck Erbe may want to start counting his stars.

At this weekend’s MSU Volleyball Classic, the trio of senior outside hitter Erin Hartley, junior outside hitter sKyla Smith and sophomore setter Nikki Colson responded well to pressure situations and led the Spartans (4-0) to their fourth title in the tournament’s seven-year history.

All three players came up with big shot after big shot en route to the tournament title.

Exhibit A - The Spartans already trailed Western Michigan one game to none. They then sat tied at 27 in the second game when Smith served an ace that gave the Spartans a lead they would not relinquish. MSU won the game 30-28 and went on to win the match.

Exhibit B - Leading Western Michigan 10-9 in the fourth game, Hartley chased down a dig and acrobatically reached over the first-row fans to clear the ball. She then immediately hustled back to the net for a solo block on a Western attacker.

Exhibit C - Colson adjusted to bad passes and, at times, set with one hand. But in the end, she set 47 assists against Auburn, 55 against Dayton, 51 against Denver and 56 against Western Michigan.

All three players earned spots on the All-Tournament Team and Smith was the tournament’s most valuable player.

“Smith’s a go-to player,” Colson said. “It can be a good set or a bad set, she just goes up there and puts the ball away.

In her sophomore season, Smith recorded 58 kills in 34 games. This weekend, she had 61 kills in 16 games.

“She’s doing it all,” Colson said.

And right with her are Hartley and Colson.

“Hartley is having a breakout year,” Erbe said. “She’s got a big heart, and she plays hard every day in practice and in every game.”

Other defenses often hone in on Hartley - and will all season, Erbe said.

“That’s why it’s huge that Kyla stepped up as a major force,” Erbe said. “Kyla gives us a two-pronged attack.”

Also leading the attack was Colson, a setter who does a variety of things and plays many key roles for the Spartans, Erbe said.

“She’s a winner, such an incredible competitor,” he said. “She plays great defense, she is a great setter and she runs the floor.”

Over the weekend Colson did a “phenomenal job” of keeping the ball in play, Erbe said.

“I think I have good anticipation and good reaction,” Colson said. “You just learn to react to the ball and move.

“A setter has to be a track star out there chasing down every ball.”

But Colson - or Hartley or Smith - can’t do it all alone.

“It’s really important to be balanced,” Erbe said. “If the other team tries to take a primary hitter out of your system, someone just steps up.”

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