Monday, June 17, 2024

MSU wins fifth straight Showcase

Freshman middle blocker Vineece Verdun hits the ball over the net for a kill during the third match against Florida A&M Friday night at Jenison Field House.

The MSU volleyball team continued to roll this weekend, winning the MSU Showcase at Jenison Field House for the fifth straight year.

The Spartans didn’t drop a set on the weekend, defeating Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Florida A&M and Connecticut to claim the title and stretch their winning streak to six.

Junior middle blocker Vanessa King, who was named tournament MVP, said the team is starting to play well together.

“We improved a lot in practice this week,” King said. “Everyone just kept it sharp and we kept it clean. We’re on a great roll right now; it’s going good.”

Sophomore outside hitter Jenilee Rathje and freshman setter Natalie Emro also were named to the all-tournament team.

Head coach Cathy George said defense was key to the weekend’s success.

“We want to play great defense, so you have to keep the ball off the floor,” George said. “We really do have a great defensive cast, and we will find that they’ll only get better and better as they understand more of what we’re trying to accomplish. I know that there’s areas we can improve on and they are responding.”

Freshman libero Carli Weiler’s return from injury helped the defense. Weiler, who injured her elbow during the team’s opening weekend, played in all three matches and helped lead a few key rallies for the Spartans.

Saturday, the tournament doubled as an opportunity for the volleyball program to honor its alumnae.

Jenison was filled with past players as the crowd watched 2007 All-American Ashley Schatzle get her number placed in the rafters.

“That really is near and dear to my heart,” George said. “I’m so proud of her, but I’m proud of the program. I know that it was a team effort that helped get her to that level. It makes me proud of the accomplishments of Ashley and the entire team from last year.”

The gathering gave the players a chance to meet up with former teammates and past stars.

“We know all the seniors from last year came back so that was really cool, and just seeing people who played even before you were born, it’s crazy,” King said.

George said she uses the reunions to keep players connected to the program.

“Being an alum, coming back, feeling a part of Michigan State volleyball is so important,” George said. “I want to make sure we tie the past and the present together, and I think that it’s valuable for our players now, it’s valuable for those players to know that they’re welcome back.”

The Spartans look to extend their winning streak against Oakland at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jenison.

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