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Volleyball looks for wins in final matches at Jenison Field House

November 18, 2010

In the last month of the season, MSU volleyball head coach Cathy George has been working with each team member to identify areas for improvement. While refining skills, she said each player’s individual improvements have set the stage for the team to close out the season successfully.

Despite going 1-1 last weekend, George said the team’s progress was evident in both matches.

“We’ve really been setting our sights on our overall improvement, and each individual has made notable improvements,” she said. “We’ve seen that come out in the team play.”

After getting their first conference road win since 2008 last weekend against Iowa, the Spartans (12-15 overall, 4-12 Big Ten) have been preparing for their last weekend of home matches. In two rematches, they will play Indiana on Friday and Purdue on Saturday.

Both matches will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Jenison Field House. MSU needs to win its remaining four matches to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament.

While still scouting the Hoosiers (19-9, 7-9) and the Boilermakers (18-9, 9-7), George said she’s not shifting the focus off of improving on the details, especially since the team has a chance to turn around its Big Ten season.

“(I’m) real proud of the performance of our team to battle back and to improve over the course of the last few weeks the way they have,” George said. “We’re really looking at the process … of where we’re at, and what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it better than we were.”

Junior defensive specialist Carli Weiler, who is third on the team with 197 digs this season, said the defense has made notable progress in the past couple weeks. She hopes the Spartans will be able to take revenge on Indiana and Purdue after previously losing to both teams.

“We’ve definitely been more calm on defense,” Weiler said. “Working with the blockers and the defense, everyone’s been more on the same page. We feel like we’re more in control, and I think our team chemistry is really good right now.”

MSU has struggled to finish and win matches in four or less sets, but it has been working at practice to mimic this situation, freshman setter Kristen Kelsay said.

While the Spartans fell, 3-0, to Purdue on Oct. 22, they had the chance to beat Indiana the next night in four sets, but failed to take control, losing 3-2. Team members said they’re more prepared for the Hoosiers this time, anticipating the same situation presenting itself again this weekend.

“We’ve really been working on finishing and closing a game out and not letting the other team get on runs,” Kelsay said. “In a couple five-game matches, we’ve had the chance of closing it out in the fourth game, but have let it go to five, and sometimes we’ve lost because of that.”

George said she’s confident in her team’s ability to prevent matches from going to five games, which she attributes to improving team communication and coordination.

Because MSU, Indiana and Purdue all are fighting for a seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans said they expect aggressive offensive plays and will have to shut down the other teams’ superstars.

“They both run a fast offense and a lot of slides (along the net),” Kelsay said. “So we’ve really been changing our defense and our blocking to be on the same page so that we can defend the slide and take risks with out blocks and know that we can dig them.”

For their last weekend playing at Jenison, the Spartans said they’re leaving everything on the court so they can come away from the weekend pleased with their performance.

“I think our team will play hard this weekend,” George said. “I think that all teams do on their last home weekend.”

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