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Tight-knit sisters bring winning equation to MSU

September 9, 2009

Redshirt freshman defensive specialist Mandi Karaba, left, laughs with her sister junior libero and defensive specialist Allyson Karaba during practice Wednesday afternoon at Jenison

Photo by Josh Radtke | The State News

For the MSU volleyball team, defense starts with a capital K.

That’s because the Spartans defense is anchored in part by the sister duo of Allyson and Mandi Karaba, who were born about 10 months apart and have helped lead the way to a 6-0 start for MSU.

Allyson, a junior libero, was named the tournament MVP for this past weekend’s Cleveland State Invitational, which the Spartans won by winning all three of their games.

Meanwhile, Mandi, a redshirt freshman, has been seeing time in the rotation and contributing in her first full year on the team.

The Karaba sisters said they got along pretty well growing up, but also bring out the most in each other competitively.

“It’s funny because if we’re on other sides of the net practicing against one another, we’ll be so competitive against each other,” Mandi Karaba said.

Mandi Karaba said one practice resulted in an intense confrontation at the net between the two sisters.

“I think one time at practice we got into a heated battle and we were face to face at the net and the other players were kind of staring at us,” Mandi Karaba said.

Nevertheless, the Karaba sisters share a certain chemistry that stems from knowing each other so well, and it’s that chemistry that gives the sisters a slight edge over the other players.

“We understand each other and focus more on each other’s words than how we’re saying it,” Allyson Karaba said.

Possessing great athleticism growing up, the sisters led their North Muskegon high school team to a Class C state championship in 2006 and went back to the finals the following season, Allyson’s senior year and Mandi’s junior year.

Hard work and standout ability defined their play in middle school and high school, said Karel Bailey, the girls’ physical education teacher and their track coach in high school.

“They never stopped working — they always put out extra effort for everything they did in both sports and school,” Bailey said. “They’re great kids and the kind that coaches just love to have on their team.”

The amount of success each player has had thus far comes despite the fact that the two never played organized volleyball before middle school and had more of an interest in basketball.

“Right now, people are starting in elementary school, but we started in seventh grade,” Allyson Karaba said.

Neither Karaba was heavily recruited heading into high school, but the two have both found a home at MSU, where they’ve already become mainstays on the team.

Head coach Cathy George has taken note of their tough, hard-nosed play.

“Both are extremely competitive and bring a lot of aggressive and tenacious type play,” George said.

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