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Volleyball team improves weaknesses, finds strengths

August 28, 2012

With the completion of the annual Spartan Showcase tournament this past weekend at Jenison Field House, volleyball season officially is under way. The Spartans dominated, much as they have in the past, earning their ninth-straight Spartan Showcase title by defeating McNeese State, Youngstown State and Eastern Kentucky in the title match.

Head coach Cathy George sees the Spartan Showcase, which usually takes place during the first or second weekend of the season, as an opportunity to identify the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

“We look to find a rhythm,” George said. “And then we can build on what we thought wasn’t clean.”

Now the team’s attention turns to the upcoming University of Connecticut Classic, in Storrs, Conn., where they will face Fairfield, Dartmouth and Connecticut, the host team. Junior setter Kristen Kelsay said they do have some film on each of their opponents to watch prior to the games, but this weekend still will be mostly about their own strengths and weaknesses.

“Our goal is to win every tournament,” she said. “But we have to focus on us.”

Kelsay, junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski and George were emphatic in saying the team needs to work on defense. Wicinski was somewhat disappointed in that aspect, if only because of the height present on the team, she said.

George said that in addition to working on defense, the Spartans will look to expand their offense after what she called a very strong performance in the showcase.

“We’re going to try to bring everything together (this weekend),” Wicinski said. “We want to clean up our main skills.”

In the team’s weekend performance, George said she thought everybody played well, even if Wicinski ­— who was named MVP of the showcase — junior middle blockers Kelsey Kuipers and Alexis Mathews stood out by virtue of being named to the All-Tournament team.

Kelsay, one of two team captains, felt the same way about the showcase as George, in that it gives the Spartans a chance to learn about themselves against teams she described as “scrappy.”

“It was definitely a good weekend to see some of our weaknesses,” Kelsay said. “We served tough, but we’re going to work on our blocking.”

Kelsay said one of the nice things about the early, nonconference action is the lack of available game film. She said that the only scouting MSU did on the other teams in the showcase was to watch them in the showcase.

“We have to focus on us, on the little details,” Kelsay said.

As for Wicinski — who joined the MSU roster this season after transferring from Northern Illinois — she was pleased with the team’s first weekend more for the interactions between teammates than on-court production. She said that even in moments of relative adversity, such as dropping the opening set to Youngstown State on Saturday, the team rallied and stayed together.

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