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Volleyball falls to ranked opponents on weekend trip to Hawaii

September 6, 2010

After a weekend in paradise, the MSU volleyball team returned to campus Sunday with experience from playing highly ranked teams after going 1-2 in Honolulu at the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic this weekend.

The Spartans (4-2) extended their nonconference winning streak to 26 matches with a 3-2 win over New Mexico on Thursday, but fell short with a 3-2 loss to No. 4 Hawaii and a 3-0 shutout against No. 10 USC on Saturday.

“We’re a few notches away from being a top-10 team, but we need to clean up some areas in order for us to maintain that level of consistency,” head coach Cathy George said. “We saw a lot of strong play, and I think we recognize that our team has the ability to play in the top-10 level. We also saw what we need to work on in order to make
that possible.”

The Spartans opened up Thursday by taking on New Mexico, but they quickly fell behind after losing the first set 25-22. Making their presence felt, the Spartans shot back by taking control of the second set and holding off the
Lobos, 25-19.

Fighting for a lead, the teams remained neck and neck with with a total of 13 ties throughout the set. The Lobos managed to push past the Spartan defense and edged them out, 27-25. The teams’ back-and-forth play continued through the fourth set, but the Spartans advanced ahead and won the game 26-24.

MSU closed out the match in a quick 15-10 set win, with junior outside hitter Kyndra Abron nailing 16 kills.

Junior setter Natalie Emro led the Spartans with 31 assists on the evening and freshman setter Kristen Kelsay added 23.

The Spartans moved on to challenge Hawaii’s home-court advantage, but the Rainbow Wahine came out on top in the five-set match. Although the Spartans took an early lead, Hawaii fired back and won the first set, 25-18. In the second set, MSU quickly took the lead and utilized its momentum to control the pace of the set. The Spartans won the set at 33-31.

Hawaii immediately dominated the beginning of the third set with a score of 10-5, but MSU rallied back to 21-20 for its first lead of the game. Following a series of crucial plays, the Spartans finished the set at 26-24.

“It was just so exciting to see our team play like that after just the fifth game of the year,” senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle said. “Hawaii is just as good as every team, if not better than, in the Big Ten, so it’s exciting to see us play that good against Hawaii and know that we can play that well against all the Big Ten teams (this season).”

After an early Spartan lead, the score remained close throughout the fourth set and the Rainbow Wahine took the set, winning 25-20.

Battling to the end, Hawaii came out on top and won the final game 15-11. Schatzle and junior outside hitter Becca Zlabis posted 22 and 21 kills, respectively, and Emro came through with 37 assists.

In addition, senior libero Allyson Karaba contributed 26 digs on the evening, Zlabis had 16 and Emro added 12. Both Zlabis and Emro recorded double-doubles for the match.

“It was a lot of fun to play (Hawaii) and see their crowd and support for their volleyball program,” George said. “I don’t think it affected us, but their team definitely drew from that and took charge of the game to beat us.”

The Spartans closed out their weekend by being shut out by USC, 25-17, 25-23 and 25-15. After a tiring weekend, MSU wasn’t able to come back in any set, but Zlabis still posted nine kills. Emro also had 18 assists, and Kelsay had 10.

“I think that we actually played, for the first time since I’ve been here, all as one, especially during the Hawaii match,” Zlabis said. “Everyone was checked in. Emotionally, physically and mentally, everyone was there, and it was a lot
of fun.”

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