The MSU volleyball team (11-1) continued its dominance over non-conference opponents this weekend, toppling Ball State, Virginia Commonwealth and Sacred Heart in the Spartan Invitational.
Senior outside hitter Jenilee Rathje earned the title of tournament MVP, while senior outside hitter Kyndra Abron and freshman libero Kori Moster also took home all-tournament honors in MSU’s third tournament win of the season.
The Spartans swept Ball State and Sacred Heart in the first and final games of the weekend but dropped the first set against Virginia Commonwealth before rallying to take three straight sets and the victory.
“I thought VCU came out with a great game plan,” head coach Cathy George said. “But we were able to counter that and come back with some answers and make adjustments.”
George added that learning to make adjustments was an important lesson for her team as it approaches Big Ten play next weekend against Purdue.
The Spartans took off against Sacred Heart in the final game of the tournament in which they won three straight sets by scores of 25-15, 25-23 and 25-11. Abron cemented her position on the all-tournament team, racking up 16 kills with no attack errors and a .800 hitting percentage.
“The setting was great, so it was easier for the hitters to get strong kills,” Abron said.
Rathje led the team with 43 kills on the weekend, while Abron finished close behind with 41 kills. But it wasn’t just the number of kills that was impressive; it was the way the hitters forced the ball over the net.
Against Sacred Heart, Abron would get a two-step running start before authoritatively spiking the ball into the ground. Rathje also had no trouble intimidating the Pioneers during the final game.
“Being able to put the ball down with authority just makes a statement to the other team,” Rathje said. “(It says,) ‘We’re the dominant ones. We’re the ones that you have to beat.’”
Thanks to strong performances by the starters, George was able to get a number of younger players playing time on the court. Junior defensive specialist Chelsey Probst was one of those players, coming through with a diving save that kept a key rally alive.
“It was our goal to come out and dominate and not just play the game and just get through it,” George said. “We wanted to come out and make ourselves a force to be reckoned with.”
The Big Ten season begins at 8 p.m. Friday, when the Spartans take on Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., before traveling to Bloomington, Ind., to play Indiana at 7 p.m. Saturday.
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