The Spartans volleyball team entered this weekend’s MSU Showcase with new faces, different opponents and a new outlook. But in the end, the result was the same.
For the ninth straight time, the Spartans defended their home floor and captured the MSU Showcase title, and in doing so, began the season with a 3-0 record.
MSU upset No. 12 Southern Cal on Friday night in front of a large Jenison Field House crowd, which head coach Cathy George said helped provide a spark all weekend.
“We were a little flat at times, but I thought the crowd really pulled us through,” George said.
“I think it’s nice to always open up at home. We have a lot of crowd support, we played intense, and I thought it was a great way to start the season.”
The Spartans fed off the home crowd’s energy and made come-from-behind victories the theme for the weekend,
rallying past USC and North Carolina, NCAA qualifiers from last year, and cruising by Albany.
Trailing 10-6 in the fourth set of Saturday’s tournament finale against North Carolina, MSU staged its most impressive rally by fighting back to take the set and winning a tight final set for the 3-2 win.
George was encouraged by her team’s effort, but said she doesn’t want to get too carried away with the victories.
“It was a great way to start, but we have a lot to work on yet and there’s a lot of
things we need to get better at,” she said.
MSU is unranked in the preseason polls and is searching for its third NCAA Tournament berth in the past five seasons. The Spartans lost one senior from last year’s team, which finished 15-16.
Each time the Spartans needed a lift this weekend, they received it from a different player, showing their ability to thrive even when one or two players were having a down night.
MSU sophomore middle blocker Kyndra Abron
was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, posting a .526 hitting percentage on the weekend. She was also named tournament MVP.
“I feel like we’ve gotten so much better from last year,” Abron said.
“I think we’re more comfortable with each other, and we’re starting out to learn how to play better with each other.”
Spartan sophomore Natalie Emro and junior Megan Schatzle also were placed on the all-tournament team.
George can be encouraged by the play of her team’s sophomores, who saw a lot of time last year as freshmen, and who stepped up their play during the weekend.
Sophomores Emro, Abron and Jenilee Rathje saw significant time this weekend and are part of the
reason why MSU can rely on several players to provide a spark. They figure
to be instrumental to the team’s success in the future.
But for now, the Spartans can turn to their two seniors, Vanessa King and Mischelle Nelson, to carry them in tough games.
King totaled 23 kills during the weekend and was named to the Big Ten preseason all-conference team, while Nelson contributed 13 kills.
“We know we’ve got a lot of potential, and we want to fulfill that,” King said. “We set our goals pretty high this year.”
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MSU resumes play Friday against Syracuse in Cleveland and doesn’t return home until Oct. 2 when it faces Illinois.
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