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Spartans face tough opponent in NCAA Round of 16

December 5, 2007

Senior outside hitters Katie Johnson, right, and Jessica Hohl pause for a moment between plays during the game against Indiana on Nov. 24 at Jenison Fieldhouse. The Spartans will face No. 2 Nebraska, the defending national champions, Friday night during the NCAA Tournament in Madison, Wis.

The No. 24 MSU volleyball team is looking to make its trip to Wisconsin a long weekend.

If the Spartans beat No. 2 Nebraska, the 2006 NCAA Champions, on Friday it would be a monumental victory for the program.

“Nebraska would obviously be another mark in this year’s accomplishments and it would be one that would set this team apart from all teams in Michigan State history,” MSU head coach Cathy George said. “But for us right now, it would mean that we have a match the next day and we’d have to prepare for that next match.”

The Cornhuskers will be bringing five All-Americans, including two Players of the Year, to match up against the Spartans. Although that may be intimidating for some teams, MSU feels that the Big Ten, with teams such as No. 1 Penn State and then-No. 7 Wisconsin has prepared it to take on teams such as Nebraska.

“I think it helps having played Penn State twice,” senior outside hitter Katie Johnson said. “Playing them and knowing that we held our own the second time, the first time we may have been a little scared, but the second time we definitely held our own.

“So we saw the No. 1 team in the country, we beat the No. 7 team in the country (Wisconsin) and I definitely think we could do some damage in Wisconsin against Nebraska.”

Depending on the outcome, this could be the last game for the four Spartan seniors – but they hope to go out with a bang.

“We just want to make it as far as we can,” Johnson said. “Nothing is ever going to be good enough for us so we just want to take it one game at a time and see what we can do.”

Senior outside hitter Ashley Schatzle added that the team is not satisfied with just making it to the Sweet 16 this year.

“It would mean a lot to beat Nebraska. Last year we lost in the first round so this year we’re determined to do more than that,” Schatzle said. “I’ve been really excited this year, with it being my last. The group of girls we have this year has been so much fun, our chemistry is really great and it hasn’t been a pain to come to practice or anything because we just enjoy each other.”

With this being only the fourth time in program history MSU has fought its way into the Sweet 16, and beating its fourth ranked team this season, Nebraska, would mean a great deal for the recruiting process.

“With the progress we’re making so far, recruits have mentioned us in that we are on the right track,” George said. “They see that we are back to where Michigan State volleyball was in the past and that this is going to be a national level team in the future and they want to be a part of that.”

The highly touted matchup will begin at 8 p.m. Friday in Wisconsin with the winning team advancing to the Elite Eight.

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