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George stays upbeat despite poor start

November 1, 2005

Despite a roller coaster season thus far, MSU head coach Cathy George isn't hanging her head. She still has the same grin on her face that she had at the beginning of the season. And she's holding on to a little glimmer of hope — making it to the NCAA Tournament.

Sitting at No. 9 in the Big Ten standings, George still believes her team has what it takes to make an appearance in the tournament. George, who started coaching the MSU women's volleyball team this year, said her team is taking it one step at a time.

"To some, the goal of the year is to win the Big Ten conference," George said. "That's really not what our goals were to begin with because that was an improbability. I didn't have an expectation to win the Big Ten in my first year."

But with eight games to go before the Big Ten tournament, the season is still up in the air. And George isn't giving up.

"I want them to continue to fight because I want them to believe that they can still fight for the position," she said.

The Spartans (10-12 overall, 3-9 Big Ten) are coming off a weekend road trip where they dropped matches to Illinois (13-10, 4-8) and Purdue (20-3, 9-3).

George said the team was simply outplayed over the weekend.

"Illinois played really well," she said. "They just had a really good weekend and we played a little inconsistent at times. I think we played Purdue really well. If we could play more consistently well, I think good things will happen."

The Spartans have faced many challenges this season. Sophomore outside hitter Katie Johnson sat out several games because of an arm injury. Freshman middle blocker Erin Rice is suspended for an off-the-court incident

But George said she's pleased that her players haven't given up.

"This is a group that has been working very hard and I'm very proud of the effort," George said. "We have eight fewer players then we did last year on the team that finished eighth. So we have had adversity. This team is fighting and they're playing against teams that are the best in the country.

"It would really be a tough year if the players decided not to work hard, decided not to give up and decided to not play. But they haven't done that."

Meanwhile, George said her players are getting better with each game. MSU is averaging more assists than their opponents with 14.4 per game. They're also getting more kills with 15.8 per game.

George said those are good signs for a team that's rebuilding.

"That has to do with chemistry, work ethic, the growth of the fight and they're doing all those things," George said. "We are setting a foundation."

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