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Volleyball drops two matches on road trip

October 24, 2010

Despite junior outside hitters Becca Zlabis and Kyndra Abron putting down a combined total of 45 kills on the weekend, the MSU volleyball team was unable to take down both Purdue on Friday and Indiana on Saturday.

In the Spartans’ (11-10 overall, 3-7 Big Ten) match against the Boilermakers (14-7, 5-5), Zlabis was their leading attacker with 12 kills, and Abron dominated against the Hoosiers (15-5, 5-5) with a career-high of 22.

“The sets were there, and I had opportunities,” Abron said. “(The setters were) distributing the ball well, so it was easier to get kills.”

On the road against both teams, MSU opened the weekend falling to Purdue in a 3-0 shutout, 25-23, 25-17 and 25-19.

Despite scouting, the Spartans said the Boilermakers changed their lineup and ran a fast system, which made it difficult for them to adjust accordingly.

“We scouted them pretty well during the week, and then they changed a few things,” junior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje said. “We didn’t really adjust, so we were just a step behind the whole time, which was frustrating and disappointing.”

Junior defensive specialist Carli Weiler led MSU’s defense 12 digs on the night, while junior setter Natalie Emro and redshirt freshman Alexis Mathews each added two blocks.

Despite Weiler’s performance with the Spartan defense, the team’s attack was unable to take control of the three sets. In addition to Zlabis, senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle was right behind her nailing nine kills.

Emro and freshman setter Kristen Kelsay had 19 and 15 assists, respectively, for the hitters. However, they were unable to match setter Jaclyn Hart’s 34 assists and outside hitter Ariel Turner’s 13 kills.

“I don’t think we kept the service pressure on them, which allowed them to run their system of play,” head coach Cathy George said. “I feel that that’s one place where we could have stepped up. That would have given us a better shot at Purdue.”

Traveling from West Lafayette, Ind., to Bloomington, Ind., the Spartans said they put their first loss behind them and came in ready to take down the Hoosiers. However, the team went down 3-2 in five tough sets.

“I felt like we dominated probably 85 to 90 percent of the match,” George said. “They started really strong in game one, but then (we) got some momentum halfway through the game and started to take charge.”

After winning the second and third sets to get a 2-1 lead, MSU pushed on but was unable to hold on and lost the last two sets.

“We served really aggressively, which made our blocking assignments really easy, and we were able to clamp down on them,” Rathje said. “In turn, they started giving us easy balls and we were able to tun our offense really well.”

The force of Indiana middle blocker Ashley Benson proved to be too strong for the Spartans to contain, contributing to nine of the Hoosiers’ 16 blocks on the night. She also had 19 kills.

“(Benson) is able to single-handedly take over teams,” George said. “I felt that we controlled her fairly well, even though she has a great hitting percentage.”

With Abron leading the way for MSU, Rathje and Schatzle recorded 14 and 10 kills, respectively, on the night. Emro and Kelsay tied in assists with 28 each.

Defensively, the Spartans stood strong with senior libero Allyson Karaba going down for 19 digs. Emro added 15, and Zlabis had 10. The team as a whole had 17 blocks.

“We saw how one thing led to another from serving to blocking to defense and our offense,” Rathje said. “Thing were going well for us for the most part.”

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