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MSU to play host to Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational this weekend

September 6, 2012

With two tournament titles already under its belt, MSU volleyball head coach Cathy George is very pleased with her team’s start to the season.

In accumulating a 6-0 record — which includes an 18-1 record in individual sets — they’ve won their last 15 sets and have dominated opponents outside of the Big Ten. But George is most pleased by this past weekend’s University of Connecticut Classic win.

“We just went after it,” she said. “I think we grew as a program.”

A dominating weekend at home is one thing, but taking the team on the road and dominating again is something else. Yet the Spartans came out and dispatched Fairfield in their road opener without ever trailing during the match.

They set a new school record for fewest points allowed in a match when they beat Dartmouth in straight sets — a record they’d set the previous weekend against McNeese State at home. Then, they blew Connecticut off the court in Connecticut’s own building to take home the title.

“I think that’s the best we’ve played as a unit,” junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski said. “We were very, very positive (throughout the weekend).”

Now everyone’s attention turns to the coming Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational this weekend at Jenison Field House, where MSU will take on IPFW on Friday, followed by Albany and Georgia on Saturday. Both George and sophomore libero Kori Moster noted the competition is starting to get tougher, with George calling the weekend’s slate “very strong.”

The Summit League’s coaches predicted IPFW would finish second in the league before the season started, and the Mastodons have backed that up with a 7-1 start to the year. George was clear that nobody expects them to roll over for MSU and they would have to take IPFW seriously.

Similarly, Albany was picked by the America East Conference coaches to finish first in the conference. The Great Danes have won the AEC the previous two years, but have started slowly, losing four of their first six matches.

That leaves Georgia, which was undefeated before losing in Tallahassee, Fla., to Florida State University. George was quick to compliment their coach, Lizzy Stemke, and thinks that Georgia is building a solid program.

For Moster, the goal isn’t as much about being perfect as it is to correct the mistakes that have arisen during the past two weekends of play.

“We still have lots of kinks (to work out),” Moster said. “We should focus on rising to the occasion and playing MSU volleyball.”

George also is looking for some improvement, but was more positive overall.

Although they understand the competition will be stiff, Moster and Wicinski aren’t concerned. But they also recognize that there’s still plenty to work on.

“There’s still more to be done,” Wicinski said. “We need to work on not throwing away errors and cleaning things up.

“We’re going to continue to tweak and develop our game,” George said. “But our balance offensively is growing, and we’re learning that different players can step up. That’s invaluable.”

The Spartans will take on IPFW at 7 p.m. Friday at Jenison Field House.

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