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Top-10 recruiting class paying dividends for volleyball

September 30, 2014
<p>Freshman outside hitter Holly Toliver and redshirt freshman middle blocker Megan Tompkins attempt to block Duke middle blocker Anna Kropf on Sept. 6, 2014 at Jenison Fieldhouse during a game against Duke University. The Blue Devils defeated the Spartans, 3-2. Aerika Williams/The State News </p>

Freshman outside hitter Holly Toliver and redshirt freshman middle blocker Megan Tompkins attempt to block Duke middle blocker Anna Kropf on Sept. 6, 2014 at Jenison Fieldhouse during a game against Duke University. The Blue Devils defeated the Spartans, 3-2. Aerika Williams/The State News

MSU volleyball compiled the No. 6-rated recruiting class last spring according to PrepVolleyball.com.

The talented class has paid dividends for head coach Cathy George, whose team has caught a case of the injury bug early on this season.

“(The freshmen) are growing every time we go out,” George said. “I think all of them can learn bits and pieces from quality competition.”

Spartan stalwarts such as outside hitter Lauren Wicinski, middle blocker Alexis Mathews and setter Kristen Kelsay have graduated. Ushering in the youth movement are freshmen Alyssa Garvelink, Rachel Minarick, Abby Monson and Holly Toliver.

All four had decorated high school careers.

Monson, a defensive specialist, was a 2013 Prep Volleyball honorable mention All-American.

Toliver, an outside hitter, was a Prep Volleyball Senior Ace and was a Michigan Miss Volleyball Finalist.

Minarick, a setter, was also a Prep Volleyball Senior Ace and was a two time All-American.

Garvelink, a middle blocker, was rated No. 26 among 2014 PrepVolleyball.com Senior Aces and was an Under Armour Second Team All-American.

Minarick and Garvelink have especially been impressive this season, filling in for junior setter Halle Peterson and Toliver, who have missed games due to injury.

Minarick, the lone setter on the roster, has not only been a distributor, leading the team in assists, but has also found opportunities for herself, totaling 41 kills.

“Alyssa was on fire Friday night,” George said in regards to Garvelink’s game against Indiana where she had a season-high nine kills.

The freshman middle blocker did note there was room for improvement.

“I feel like I’ve gotten better.” Garvelink said. “Obviously I still have a lot to work on. It’s a work in progress.”

Garvelink has been more than serviceable playing behind sophomore hitters Chloe Reinig and Allyssah Fitterer. The Holland, Mich. native has 73 kills on the season, which is the most by any freshman on the team.

“(The first month of games) have been exciting,” Garvelink said. “It’s awesome being on a team with such good competition where in practice we can just compete the whole time.”

The competition outside of practice will get tougher for the Spartans, who face No. 3 Penn State and No. 8 Nebraska in October.

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