In its season-opening match, the MSU women’s volleyball team towered over the Bowling Green Falcons and helped head coach Cathy George achieve her 450th career win in the process Friday night at Jenison Fieldhouse.
The Spartans (1-0) controlled the pace of the match throughout each set and won 3-0 in the opening match of the MSU Showcase.
“It’s an honor,” George said of the victory milestone. “It means that I’ve coached some great players and great people and have been a part of great programs.”
George now ranks 36th among active coaches with a 450-300 career record.
The Spartans took charge winning the three sets by scores of 25-11, 28-26 and 25-14, respectively. Junior outside hitters Jenilee Rathje and Becca Zlabis each contributed 10 kills, pushing the team total to 43, compared to the Falcons’ 26.
Despite the score remaining close for the first few points at 5-4 in the first set, the Spartans widened the gap with the help of Zlabis with two straight kills to take the score up to 9-4. From there, the Spartans maintained their lead to the end, and Zlabis and senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle led in kills in the set.
With the Falcons recording just four kills in the first set, most of their points were earned from MSU errors. As the game went on, the Spartans only continued to dominate over Bowling Green, winning the opening set 25-11.
After consulting her team between the first and second sets, Bowling Green head coach Denise Van De Walle fired her team up, and the Falcons’ presence in the second set was significantly more noticeable.
The Spartans fell behind at the start of the set, and the Falcons held a lead or tie for the first few points. Sophomore outside hitter Amy Dentlinger forced a kill on her opponents, giving MSU its first lead of the set at 7-6.
With both teams never leading by more than five points, the score remained close throughout the second set, and MSU’s lead peaked at 16-11 with a service error from Bowling Green’s libero Ashley Dunn. Refusing to let the Spartans control the pace of the game, the Falcons kept the scoring margin close, which pushed both teams to the 25-point minimum without a decided winner.
George said she utilized her team’s depth and talent by getting all of her players to contribute on the court. Having so many contributors added to the Spartans’ dominance.
“I thought it was great to get all of our players in, and I think that we stepped up to some crucial moments,” George said.
Bowling Green nearly caught the Spartans with a kill from setter Sam Fish and then an attack error from Zlabis, making the score 25-24 in favor of the Falcons. After Bowling Green tied it up again, MSU pushed beyond its fatigue, and a kill from junior setter Natalie Emro closed out the second game with the final point to end it at 28-26.
“Game two was not pretty for us,” George said. “I did not like the way we handled game two, but it’s also a learning opportunity.”
Closing the match with a win in the third set, the Spartans’ lead only grew as the game went on with their largest margin being 10 points. The Spartans capitalized on a balanced attack to overwhelm the Falcons. Bowling Green’s final error of the match ended the set to close out the team’s season opener.
The Spartans continue their weekend showcase tomorrow, playing IUPUI at noon and Evansville at 7 p.m. at Jenison Fieldhouse.
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