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Volleyball swept in weekend games against Penn State, Ohio State

October 3, 2010

Despite practicing hard to earn Big Ten victories, the MSU volleyball team dropped both of its road matches this weekend.

The team fell 3-0 to No. 4 Penn State on Friday and then lost 3-0 to Ohio State on Saturday.

The Spartans (9-6, 1-3 Big Ten) said they improved on their previous performances against Penn State and persevered against one of the nation’s top teams.

“Going against Penn State, I thought we played very well at times,” head coach Cathy George said. “I thought we competed really well and showed some really good things in that match. I thought that we worked really well together and played as a unit.”

In their opening match of the weekend, the Spartans fell behind early in the first set against the Nittany Lions (13-2, 3-1) and were unable to recover in the set. Penn State held on for a 25-21 game win over MSU.

In addition to the team continuing to play without injured senior defensive specialist Allyson Karaba, MSU was without senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle, the team’s leader in kills with 160 on the season.

Junior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje, who leads the team in total blocks at 49 and has the second-highest average of kills per set with 2.47, also didn’t play.

“Right now, I think we’re used to trying to play with what we have,” junior outside hitter Becca Zlabis said. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job with that, and everyone is adjusting well.”

The Spartans were unable to break Penn State’s momentum and quickly fell to an 11-3 deficit in the second set before ultimately losing 25-17. The Nittany Lions finished up the match winning the third set, again 25-17, and extended their home winning streak to 81 matches.

“We had them on the ropes … but we need to keep our pressure on all the way through,” George said.

Zlabis led the Spartans’ attack with 11 kills, and juniors setter Natalie Emro and outside hitter Kyndra Abron each added six. Compared to MSU’s total 30 kills, Penn State edged the team with 47 total.

“We brought a lot of energy against Penn State, and we played like we had nothing to lose and played really relaxed,” Zlabis said. “I think by doing that, it makes us all just play better because we’re not thinking as much.”

Emro also led the team with 19 assists in the match, and sophomore defensive specialist Mandi Karaba led in digs with seven. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Alexis Mathews also posted five blocks on the match to help the team earn 11 total.

MSU continued its weekend Big Ten play Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, with its second loss of the weekend to Ohio State. The Spartans lost in three sets, 25-20, 25-22 and 25-18. The Buckeyes ran an unusually organized, fast-paced offense, which was more challenging to defend than Penn State, George said.

“We were very good at (blocking) Friday night, but we just didn’t do that when Ohio State ran a quicker offense the next night, which I think is Ohio State’s style,” George said. “Everybody has a different style, and I think Ohio State’s is a little different and a little out of the ordinary.”

After trading the lead back and forth in the first set, the teams were tied at 16 until Ohio State pulled ahead to take the set.

“Against Ohio State, I think we started really strong, and we were up there wanting to win and beat them,” Zlabis said.

The second set started similarly, but the Buckeyes took control of the game to get the score up to 21-13. The Spartans, however, went on a 9-2 run to make the score 23-22, but ultimately lost the set.

Ohio State kept the lead during the entire third set, leaving MSU unable to recover in the match. The Buckeyes extended their all-time series lead over the Spartans to 41-27.

Schatzle led the Spartans’ attack with seven kills, and Zlabis was right behind her with six. Leading the way with assists and digs was Emro with 22 and seven, respectively.

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“Our overall play has improved since last weekend,” Emro said.

“I think we really came together to show a lot more emotion. We were working well together, but we still have a lot of work to do.”


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