Sunday, December 4, 2022

One more tournament, one more title for Spartans

September 13, 2009

Nine up. Nine down.

The No. 18 MSU volleyball team’s season has gone accordingly, playing up to task in each of its nine games this fall, en route to a 9-0 start.

The team won its third straight tournament championship this weekend in Chicago by grabbing victories over Duquesne, Georgia State and UIC.

Although the program is off to its best start since 1976 when it began 15-0, head coach Cathy George said she isn’t surprised with her team’s strong start so far.

“We’ve had the opportunity to play all of our players at any time, and that’s something we weren’t able to do last year,” George said. “We’ve looked at the entire roster and can decide how to use them best.”

Last season, the Spartans struggled with injuries, including a major loss of sophomore Jenilee Rathje. But this year, Rathje is healthy and the Spartans have solid depth thanks to contributions they’ve been receiving from several different players.

Sophomore Natalie Emro earned MVP honors at the UIC Invitational this weekend, posting 104 total assists, making her the third different Spartan to earn such an honor in a tournament during the past three weeks.

Junior Allyson Karaba was named MVP of the previous weekend’s Cleveland State Invitational and sophomore Kyndra Abron earned the honors in the opening weekend’s MSU Showcase.

“When you win these tournament championships, you get different contributions from different people,” George said.

“Balance is what we need. We don’t want to be in a position where we need to be carried by one or two players.”

MSU jumped out to an early lead against Duquesne in its first match of the weekend, earning a 3-0 win and setting the tone for the rest of the weekend.

The Spartans followed with a 3-0 win over Georgia State and a 3-1 win over host UIC.

Senior Mischelle Nelson also was named to the All-Tournament Team after posting eight blocks and recording a strong hitting percentage. George said the team had a large cheering section in Chicago, with a handful of players coming from Illinois.

“We played better offensively and improved in some areas,” George said of this weekend’s matches. “We were challenged in some ways, and we met those challenges toward the end of the weekend.”

The Spartans have been consistent so far and will look to continue improving in their last nonconference matches of the season next weekend at the Clemson Classic.

“In practice we’ve been working on trying to speed up our sets,” junior Megan Schatzle said last week. “We are just in a rhythm and we feel like we have our rhythm down.”

Allyson Karaba anchored the defense with 18 digs against Georgia State and continued her solid play after a strong showing the previous weekend in Cleveland.

“We really wanted to work on connecting our offensive and defensive systems so we’re even better,” Karaba said last week. “Momentum is especially important.”

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