Pushing the series all-time record to 8-0, the MSU volleyball team (7-3) downed Oakland in four sets to keep their series record undefeated. The Spartans’ attack overpowered the Golden Grizzlies and demonstrated their offensive depth.
Despite missing Allyson Karaba and Carli Weiler because of injuries, the Spartans made the appropriate adjustments to their game. Senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle led the attack with 14 kills, while junior outside hitter Kyndra Abron posted 11, and redshirt freshman middle blocker Alexis Mathews and junior setter Natalie Emro added 10 and nine, respectively.
“I really think our defense really contributed to (our win),” Emro said. “They passed really well, especially for not having two of our main defenders. Everyone really stepped up and did a great job.”
Emro also led the team with 27 assists, followed by freshman setter Kristen Kelsay with 16. Junior outside hitter Becca Zlabis posted a career-high of 19 digs on the match.
“Becca had a great game,” Emro added. “She had a lot on her hands. She was told to pass to 80 percent of the court, which is a huge job for anyone, and she really handled it with poise.”
MSU opened the first set strong, but the Golden Grizzlies matched the Spartans’ intensity. After the Spartans fell to a small 8-6 deficit, Zlabis buried a kill at the back of the court to tie it at eight and give MSU the serve.
Junior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje took the serve and helped her team go on a 10-point run to make the score 18-8 before MSU lost the point. However, the Spartans quickly got he ball back with a powerful kill from Mathews.
After getting to the game point at 24-13 because of one of Emro’s kills, the Spartans had to fight beyond allowing Oakland to grab one more point before winning it 25-14.
In the first game, Emro maintained a perfect killing percentage, going five for five, and Schatzle and Mathews were right behind her with four and three respectively.
The Golden Grizzlies fought back in the second set to take an early 4-1 lead. The two teams remained neck and neck until Rathje started serving to give her team a five-point run, making it 15-8. However, at 17-11, Oakland started to make its comeback and eventually tied the score at 21.
MSU couldn’t recover in the game, and Oakland took the set 25-22.
“We had a very inconsistent performance in game two, where we let up a little bit and made a lot of unforced errors,” head coach Cathy George said. “In game two, we had 15 unforced errors. If you give somebody 15 points out of their 25, you’re going to struggle. We turned it around, thankfully, in games three and four.”
The two teams opened the third set playing a tight defense and keeping the score close. After Oakland took a small 7-4 lead, the Spartans came back to make the score 15-11. They held onto the lead for the rest of the set, winning 25-16.
In the third set, Schatzle pounded four kills, and Zlabis, Abron and Mathews all added three. Emro also had 8 assists. Abron said her setters created a lot of open space for her to work with, allowing her to have so many kills.
“(Everyone) set me the ball at the right time, so it was really easy to put it down,” Abron said. “I got pretty good sets, too, on top of that, and I got a lot of good attempts.”
The Spartans took a quick and early lead in the fourth game, and they continuously tried to pull away from the Golden Grizzlies, but Oakland managed to snag a couple points between MSU serves. Seven points in the lead, Abron nailed a kill to the center of the court for the win.
“Our blocking stepped up in games three and four, which then allowed us to be a lot better at that time, to really put the hurt on Oakland,” George said.
On Friday, the Spartans will travel to Toledo for a 7 p.m. match, and then they will open their Big Ten season on Sept. 24 against Minnesota at Breslin Center.
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