Friday, December 2, 2022

Volleyball goes 2-1 in Spartan Invitational

September 12, 2010

Junior outside hitter Kyndra Abron, left, and redshirt freshman middle blocker Alexis Mathews block a shot against Clemson. The Spartans defeated the Tigers in three sets on Friday night at Jenison Fieldhouse. Josh Radtke/The State News

Photo by Josh Radtke | The State News

From the MSU volleyball team’s first match of the Spartan Invitational on Friday night, Jenilee Rathje made it clear she was going to be a major force for the Spartans.

The junior outside hitter helped the Spartans (6-3) go 2-1 in the tournament, defeating both Clemson and Eastern Illinois 3-0. Saturday night, they went to five games against Eastern Michigan, ultimately losing 3-2.

Rathje and senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle were named to the all-tournament team.

“Jenilee had an outstanding weekend,” head coach Cathy George said.

“Our setters really got her the ball. She was much better this weekend than last weekend, so we really saw a great improvement. She was really outstanding.”

In their rivalry match against Clemson, the two teams kept the score close until junior outside hitter Kyndra Abron knocked a powerful kill over the net to make the score 13-8 and give the Spartans momentum to pull ahead. MSU took the set 25-22.

MSU maintained its dominance in the second set and won 25-16 when freshman setter Kristen Kelsay tipped the ball over the net for the winning point. Clemson put up more of a fight in the final, having eight total ties and five lead changes. The Spartans held onto their lead for a 25-20 win.

“(The tournament) was a learning experience,” Schatzle said. “We’re preparing for the Big Ten, and I don’t think (this weekend) was the best way to prepare for the Big Ten, but we still have a lot to learn.”

Schatzle and junior outside hitter Becca Zlabis led the attack with nine kills each, and junior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje maintained a .667 attack percentage.

Freshman setter Kristen Kelsay made 17 assists, and junior setter Natalie Emro had 16.

The Spartans continued play Saturday and downed Eastern Illinois 3-0. Sophomore outside hitter Amy Dentlinger led the Spartans’ attack with 11 kills on the night, and Rathje and Schatzle added nine and eight kills, respectively. The Spartans defeated the Panthers 25-21, 25-11 and 25-18.

“I really attribute (my playing) to the setters because they were really distributing the balls out to all the hitters, which meant that whenever we got a hit, we usually didn’t have a double block on us,” Dentlinger said. “There were seams; there were solo blocks, and that just really opened up the court for us.”

MSU fell to Eastern Michigan in five sets in its final match of the tournament and had to make adjustments with two injured players. The Spartans said their positions were changed to make up for this loss and added another obstacle.

Junior defensive specialist Carli Weiler was out with an injured wrist and senior libero Allyson Karaba injured her shoulder in the second set and did not return.

The Eagles seemed to be one play ahead of the Spartans, and they ended with 20 match ties. MSU said it had trouble with ball control and being focused and adjusting to new positions. That prevented the team from taking more than the second and third matches.

“Everything was rushed,” Schatzle said. “Everyone needs to calm down and play our game. (Our) passing wasn’t the best, and we had passers that have never passed ever, and two of our best ball-controllers are out. I think that would have helped us tremendously in the game.”

Despite the loss, Rathje and Schatzle tallied 20 and 19 kills, respectively, and Zlabis added 12. Emro and Kelsay continued to lead in assists by making 34 and 33. Rathje, Schatzle and Zlabis closed the night all having double-doubles.

Eastern Michigan came away as tournament champions, and MSU was the first runner-up.

“We did (step up) in certain areas, but from a ball control perspective, we gave up way too many points,” George said. “When things started to get tough, we stopped serving tough. … You can’t give away as many points as we gave away and expect to win.”

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