Friday, December 2, 2022

Spartans hope to learn from quality opponents, move forward

September 7, 2010

Having played in last season’s NCAA Tournament and already faced tough opponents this season, the MSU volleyball team is ready to take those experiences and turn them into wins.

Following the Spartans’ losses to No. 4 Hawaii and No. 10 USC last weekend, the team learned its weaknesses and the level at which they need to play in order to compete for a Big Ten Championship, players said.

Head coach Cathy George said her team played well this past weekend despite losing two matches. She said they have had the past few weeks to evaluate how their preseason practices have translated to their matches, and they can look forward to the rest of the season to grow.

“This weekend, we played at a level that we haven’t hit yet this season, and I think it was really exciting to see that and to know that it’s still early on,” freshman setter Kristen Kelsay said.

“We still have so much time to grow as a team and for this to be our starting point, it’s really exciting.”

Despite playing at what players said was a high level, the Spartans know there still is much room for improvement.

“I think what we need to work on is everybody just coming (and) showing up focused physically,” senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle said. “We need everybody out there, especially to beat a USC team or a Hawaii team. Not everybody was ready to play (this weekend), and not everybody showed up. I
just don’t think we gave enough.”

In addition to maintaining focus, George said that the team needs to work on playing more consistently and demonstrating basic fundamentals with execution at crucial times in matches. Junior outside hitter Becca Zlabis also said that the offense needs to work on incorporating everyone on the court and confirming that every player is on the same page.

Welcoming new members

After losing just two seniors to graduation last season, MSU had enough room to add two freshmen players — Kelsay and middle blocker Kelsey Kuipers. With a small recruiting class, the team was able to pick up where it left off last season and jump back into drills, players said.

“Instead of having to teach five or six new freshmen the drill, they only had to teach two of us,” Kelsay said. “That also helped us because we started off at a strong pace with the girls. We kind of had to catch up quicker because
everyone else already knew the drill.”

With the Spartans returning so many players, the upperclassmen are able to lead the team by example and encourage new players through novel game situations.

“On and off the court, I think our chemistry improved,” Schatzle said. “We all got to know each other a lot better over the Hawaii trip, and then we brought it onto the court.

“I think everybody knows why we’re here, and it’s awesome to see our new team. It’s different from last year; we’re all here for the same reason, and that’s to win.”

Spartan Invitational

In addition to hosting Eastern Michigan and Eastern Illinois this weekend, the Spartans will challenge Clemson on Friday at the Spartan Invitational at Jenison Field House. The Spartans referred to Clemson as a rival, as MSU won the Clemson Classic last season, defeating the Tigers 3-2.

George also has a history with Clemson head coach Jolene Jordan Hoover. The two played together for Illinois State in the mid-1980s, which adds another element to the rivalry. Friday’s match against Clemson will begin at 7 p.m. at Jenison Field House.

“We’re getting ready to play a very tough 6-0 Clemson team Friday night, so it’s going to be a battle there,” George said in her weekly press conference.

“We went to five (games) with them last year at Clemson and came out victorious, but they have some stellar athletes, and they’re a very well-coached team.”

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