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Volleyball seniors look to finish strong vs. U-M

November 23, 2010

Going into the last home match of her MSU volleyball career, senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle would love nothing more than to take down No. 19 Michigan at Breslin Center.

The two teams will compete for the State Pride Flag, a state of Michigan flag given to the winner of each season’s series between the in-state rivals. To win this year, MSU must sweep U-M, 3-0.

The match begins at 7 p.m. tonight.

“I’ve been looking forward to this match the whole year, especially because it’s in Breslin, and it’s Senior Night,” Schatzle said. “It’s huge. We have two games left, and that’s the end of the season. This is how I want to end my season: beating Michigan.”

With excitement and revenge on their minds, the Spartans (13-16 overall, 5-13 Big Ten) said they’re determined to learn from their 3-1 loss in Ann Arbor on Oct. 13 and take any points they can away from the Wolverines (23-7, 12-6).

Noticing improvement in recent weeks, head coach Cathy George said the match will be a battle, but her team is prepared to rise to the challenge.

“We definitely can beat them,” freshman setter Kristen Kelsay said. “They’re a solid team in the top 20, but we took them to four (sets) last time. We’ve seen their weaknesses and we’re going to try and exploit them.”

Keeping U-M’s shortcomings in mind, MSU knows it will have to shut down outside hitter Alex Hunt and setter Lexi Zimmerman. When the teams met earlier this season, the pair combined to put down 32 kills and 44 assists against the Spartans.

MSU redshirt freshman Alexis Mathews, who the Big Ten named Freshman of the Week on Monday, said she believes her team is capable to matching U-M’s stars’ intensity.

“We’ll work on a better blocking scheme because they have a really active setter (in Zimmerman),” Mathews said. “It’s basically just the outside and the setter; it’s the Zimmerman/Hunt show pretty much, so as long as we get those two stopped, then it’s just smooth sailing from there on out.”

Along with their attack, the Wolverines are probably the best serving team in the conference, junior outside hitter Becca Zlabis said. U-M relies on serving to get its opponents out of the system, but MSU has been working on passing and responding to tough serves.

“We need to really work on first ball kills, so even if it’s not a perfect pass, we need to really focus on putting the ball away as soon as possible to get out of that rotation,” Zlabis said.

While George said her team has improved defensively in the last three weeks, she doesn’t want the Spartans to be trapped playing only defense.

“We need to put them in a position where they have to stop us as well,” George said. “We don’t want to be playing the game on the defensive. We want to make sure that we’re on the offensive and that we’re being the aggressor here, but I’m sure they’re feeling the same way.”

The atmosphere at Breslin, Senior Night and competing for the State Pride Flag in the last home match are giving the Spartans much motivation to win. In addition to Schatzle, seniors libero Allyson Karaba and setter Nicole Peter will be honored after the match.

Despite consistently fighting the injury bug, the team said it’s proud of its accomplishments and is ready to close out the home season with a big win.

“It’s been a tough year for us with a lot of the adversity we’ve had to go through, but to cap it off (at Breslin) is really nice and special and a really great way to celebrate our seniors at the end of that match,” George said.

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