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Volleyball team hopes to improve serving

November 8, 2010

Junior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje spikes the ball to Ohio State opponents during the second game of the set Friday at Jenison Field House. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes, 3-0.

Photo by Kat Petersen | The State News

After extending its losing streak to six matches in its 3-1 loss to No. 9 Penn State on Saturday, the MSU volleyball team said it wants to improve on consistently serving tough.

Players compare their serving to other teams’ styles to look for areas of improvement.

“(If) they’re a better serving team, I think that’s when they pull out the wins more,” senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle said about opponents. “They get their opponents out of system, and it helps with everything.”

Team members said while they break down each serving element, gauging their serving speed in miles per hour is a crucial factor. Schatzle said most players are in the high 30s and low 40s, but a jump serve can get to 50 miles per hour.

Increasing speed and maintaining accuracy in terms of who receives the serve will allow MSU to be more successful.

“It’s how fast (the ball) goes from your hand to the passer, as well as knowing who to serve to,” Schatzle said. “We usually don’t serve to the libero. We usually serve to a hitter or to whoever is in the passing part (of the court).”

Unique strategies

With only six matches left this season, all against opponents they’ve previously played, the Spartans said they have been adding little quirks to their offense to change things up against their Big Ten opponents.

Seen against Penn State (21-4, 11-3) and Ohio State (19-8, 7-7) last weekend, MSU has taken select kill opportunities and, instead of spiking, has gently tipped the ball over the net, hoping it would land in a hole in the opposing defense.

Specifically, Schatzle, junior setter Natalie Emro and redshirt freshman middle blocker Alexis Mathews each successfully executed this strategy.

“We changed our lineup, so that we’d have a different look on offense,” Emro said. “It just caught (Ohio State and Penn State) off guard really, and it’s something they haven’t seen before, so they couldn’t
scout it.”

Head coach Cathy George said despite Penn State catching on and doing the same trick against her team, the Spartans need to use the technique regularly.

“You really need to mix it up, so that the defense can’t get a lock on you,” George said.

Late-season improvement

To improve team defense, some players said they need to make their first contact with the ball consistent each time. They hope this will translate into less team errors while trying to return the ball.

“We’re going to come out to practice hard and really focus on making less errors because we’re playing great volleyball at times, but it’s very cyclical,” freshman setter Kristen Kelsay said.

Against the Nittany Lions on Saturday, MSU had 18 unforced errors, which is the most it’s had since a 3-0 loss to Purdue on Oct. 22. The Spartans had 16 in their loss to Ohio State on Friday.

“Whenever you coach volleyball, you talk about unforced errors,” George said. “(This weekend), I thought we weren’t very decisive at key times and kind of second-guessed ourselves in decision making.”

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