Megan Schatzle knew after last season she needed to improve to make her team stronger and also better her chances of seeing regular minutes this season for the MSU volleyball team.
So the junior outside hitter took the spring to sharpen her game and make some adjustments in preparation for the season. So far, the results have paid off.
Schatzle leads the team in kills (203) and is the first Spartan to reach the 200-kill plateau this season.
“Last spring, I knew I had to improve if I wanted to play this fall and to be one of the starters and one of the top players,” Schatzle said.
“That (was) my main goal this spring, to work hard to and to come hard every practice and get better.”
After playing in four games her freshman year, Schatzle saw significant time last year when redshirt sophomore outside hitter Jenilee Rathje went down with an injury that forced her to miss a good portion of the season. As the Spartans relied heavily on young players for scoring, Schatzle took advantage of her playing time and finished fourth on the team in kills during Big Ten play.
This year, she said she’s better prepared to handle the difficult Big Ten stretch after having done it as a key contributor last season.
“It’s always nerve-racking for your first Big Ten game,” Schatzle said. “This year, it’s definitely helped from my experiences last year, and I improved in the spring. I feel more ready to go out on the court.”
Schatzle had several dazzling performances this season, including a 20-kill performance Oct. 3 against Northwestern and two 19-kill outings.
Although she’s the team leader in kills and a key part of the team’s 14-4 start, Schatzle has been backed up by a number of offensive players that gave the Spartans’ attack plenty of balance.
Rathje and sophomore outside hitter Becca Zlabis aren’t far behind Schatzle in the kill department, and several other players have been making impacts on both offense and defense.
“We have Allyson (Karaba) and Carli (Weiler) and Becca and so many defensive specialists who do their job every night in the back row,” Schatzle said. “Then you go to Natalie who never has a bad game and knows what she’s doing out there. She holds it together for our team.”
Many Spartans’ volleyball fans might recognize Megan’s last name and remember that her older sister, Ashley, earned all-Big Ten honors two of her three years at MSU between 2005 and 2007.
The Schatzles played together for MSU in 2007, and through the experiences of that season — which ended in a Sweet 16 appearance — and growing up, the younger Schatzle said she’s taken a lot out of her experiences playing with her sister.
“I’ve played volleyball with her since seventh grade or something like that and … I’ve definitely gotten to learn a lot from her,” Megan Schatzle said.
Ashley, who is older than Megan by three years, played with her sister for one season at Monroe High School in Monroe, Mich., and one season at MSU. She said Megan has made strides this year in seeing the court and making different shots.
“I feel that I guided her by my actions more so than verbally,” Ashley Schatzle said in an e-mail.
“She was able to get a firsthand view of what it was like playing at MSU and the dedication it required before committing to the volleyball program.”
On the court, Megan Schatzle is known for being able to change the momentum in a match with her kills. She leads the team with 3.17 kills per set and has a .297 hitting percentage.
“When Megan has the opportunity to put a ball away, she’ll do it and that’s huge for us,” Zlabis said. “She just helps in that aspect of the front row, and she’s pretty dominant.”
As the Spartans begin a tough three-game homestretch this weekend that features matches against Ohio State, No. 1 Penn State and No. 11 Michigan, they’ll look to Schatzle to provide a spark on offense and maybe showcase some of her thunderous kills.
“I want Megan to understand her uniqueness and her abilities and how she can add to Ashley’s game and continue to take what she’s learned and go beyond,” head coach Cathy George said.
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