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Before arriving at Michigan State, Cathy George had already established herself as one of the more well-respected coaches in the sport. Her nine-year tenure on the Spartan sideline has seen the Spartans ascend to one of the elite programs in the country. With consecutive NCAA Regional Semifinal appearances under her belt, arguably the best defensive player in the country on her back line, and back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes dotting her current roster, George is positioning MSU for another strong run in 2014.
George currently boasts a career record of 534-350, and is 169-126 while at MSU. She ranks 29th among active coaches for total wins in NCAA Division I volleyball, and is ranks among the top 80 coaches all-time with a career .603 winning percentage.
The 2013 season was a banner one for the Spartans, who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season and boasted three All-America selections. MSU went 11-1 in the pre-Big Ten portion of its schedule, capturing the Spartan Invitational and Butler Invitational Tournament titles and defeating the NCAA runner-up in 2012, No. 12 Oregon. The team then started the Big Ten season 6-0 and was ranked as high as fifth in the country; the Spartans opened the conference slate with an upset of No. 1 Penn State (3-1) on its home court, and capped its 6-0 start with a 3-1 home win over then-no. 9 Nebraska. In the NCAA Tournament, MSU downed Ohio and host No. 17 Kentucky in the first weekend, drawing No. 2 Penn State in the round of 16; MSU won the first set, but fell to the eventual National Champion Nittany Lions by a 3-1 score.
The individual accolades poured in for MSU over the course of the season. Junior libero Kori Moster earned her second straight Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honor, was an All-America selection, and was one of 12 players selected by USA Volleyball for the U.S. Collegiate National Team to tour China in June 2014. Lauren Wicinski completed her career with All-America honors for the fourth season in her career, and was a unanimous First Team All-Big Ten selection. The four-time Big Ten Player of the Week was the AVCA National Player of the Week on Oct. 1 (MSU's first since 2003), led the Big Ten in points per set (5.20), and finished 13th all-time in NCAA history with 2,494 caeer kills. Classmate Alexis Mathews earned her first-ever All-Big Ten accolades and was an honorable mention All-America pick, while earning a spot in the USA Volleyball training block in the spring of 2014. Mathews left her considerable mark in the record book as well, as she is MSU's school recordholder in both single-season (172) and career (562) blocks and block assists (562), while sitting second all-time at MSU in career hitting percentage (.343) and total blocks (624). MSU's freshman class, which was ranked seventh nationally in the pre-season, saw an immediate impact from Chloe Reinig, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and is eighth all-time among MSU freshmen in hitting percentage (.260), as well as classmate Allyssah Fitterer, an NCAA All-Regional team selection who also cemented her name in MSU's freshman record book in both block assists (82, sixth) and total blocks (88, ninth). She also set a single-match record for hitting percentage in a four-set match (.782 (12-1-14) vs. Northwestern, Nov. 8).
While the on-court success has continued to climb, the program has maintained its tradition of excellence in the classroom and community as well. George's players include 46 Academic All-Big Ten selections and 10 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars over nine seasons. In 2013, captain Kristen Kelsay was an Academic All-America selection, captured the Gwendolyn Norrell Community Service & Leadership Award at the Student-Athlete Support Services Academic Gala for excelling in the field of community service and outreach, then won both the Chester Brewer Leadership Award as well as the Dr. James Feurig Achievement Award (honoring dedication, honesty, academic achievement, and perserverance), two of MSU's major athletic awards, at the end of the 2013-14 academic year. In addition, she was named the Detroit Athletic Club Female College Athlete of the Year as well as the recipient of a Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship.
Every season, George's teams have attracted rapidly-growing crowds to Jenison Field House, ranking in the top-25 in Division I attendance in each of the last 18 years. In 2013, MSU shattered its program record in total attendance, welcoming 43,368 through the turnstiles, an average of 2,891 per match - both which ranked 11th nationally. In addition, MSU shattered its single-match attendance record on Oct. 23, 2013 when 6,183 fans `Jammed Jenison' to watch an epic battle against archrival Michigan.
In 2012, the Spartans reached the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season and advanced to the Regional Semifinals for the second time in five years. MSU opened the tournament with a 3-2 win over No. 18 San Diego and then upset defending national champion UCLA on its home floor, 3-1, in-route to the Sweet 16. The Spartans opened the season on a 12-match win streak that included four tournament titles: The Spartan Showcase, UConn Classic, Spartan Invitational and Charleston Invitational. George won her 500th match at Iowa and the Spartans swept Michigan on its home floor. In November, Michigan State won six consecutive Big Ten matches, the best streak in program history since 1998. During that stretch, the Spartans upset No. 4 Nebraska 3-2, defeating a top-5 opponent for the first time since 1996. MSU followed that with a 3-1 win at No. 10 Minnesota, winning back-to-back matches over top-10 teams for the first time since 1995. Kori Moster, earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was also named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski was named to the 16-member All-Big Ten team and Halle Peterson was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. It was also the first time since 1995 that two Spartans were named AVCA All-Americans in the same season. Wicinski received second-team honors and Moster earned honorable mention accolades. Wicinski ranked fourth in the NCAA in service aces per set with 0.63 and was seventh in the country in points per set with 5.33. Her mark of 4.43 kills per set also ranked 16th in the NCAA. Wicinski broke the single-season record for service aces at MSU with 81, breaking the previous record of 75 that had stood since 1983. Moster has already surpassed 1,000 career digs at MSU in just two seasons. Her mark of 602 in 2012 places her second all-time in a single season at Michigan State.
The Spartans made their way back to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, the ninth trip for George and her fourth at the helm of MSU. Michigan State started the season with six straight wins and two tournament titles, winning the UCF Classic and the Spartan Showcase. MSU closed out the non-conference schedule by winning the Spartan Invitational and started off 11-1 before the beginning of conference play. The Michigan State seniors stole the show on Nov. 18, 2011 and propelled the Spartans to a 3-1 win against then-No. 7 Illinois. One of the largest crowds of the season at Jenison Field House witnessed one of the most thrilling matches of the season. Red-shirt sophomore Alexis Mathews, along with seniors Kyndra Abron, Jenilee Rathje and Becca Zlabis each tallied double-digit kills against the Fighting Illini. Rathje, one of the most decorated players in program history, was recognized as a third-team AVCA All-American and was a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten First Team for the second straight season. Rathje finished her career first in sets played with 496 and second in matches with 142. She also ended her career seventh in block assists with 333 and eighth in kills with 1,504. Fellow senior Kyndra Abron was also named to the All-Big Ten team as an honorable mention and was named to the COBRA Magazine Midwest All-Region Team. Abron was joined on the COBRA Magazine Midwest All-Region Team by redshirt sophomore Alexis Mathews.
The 2010 season saw the Green and White face one of the toughest schedules in the nation, as it played two of the 2009 NCAA semi-final teams over the course of the season. MSU opened up the year with its then seventh-straight MSU Showcase title before taking on the rigorous conference slate. The Spartans closed out the 2010 campaign by winning four of their last six matches, highlighted by an impressive 3-0 win over then-No. 19 Michigan on Senior Night at the Breslin Center, before a record-setting crowd of 6,824. As a result of the 3-0 win, MSU regained the "State Pride Flag" for the first time since 2006, also the last time the Spartans topped U-M in straight sets. Redshirt junior Jenilee Rathje became the 17th player in program history to amass 1,000-career kills as she earned unanimous first team All-Big Ten honors as well as being named an AVCA All-Mideast Region honorable mention selection. Junior Kyndra Abron was named to the COBRA Magazine Midwest All-Region Team while freshman Alexis Mathews was an honorable mention selection.
In 2009, the Spartans once again earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament. MSU opened the campaign by winning its first 12 matches of the season, the third-best start to a year all-time and the best since the 1976 season. Along the way to the third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four seasons, the Green and White posted upset wins over then-No. 12 Southern California in the opening match of the year, as well as then-No. 12 Illinois in the Big Ten home opener. Sophomore Kyndra Abron became the first sophomore in program history to be named an AVCA All-America, earning an honorable mention selection. Abron also was just the third Spartan to earn All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore; joining Val Sterk (1994) and Jenna Wrobel (1996).
After losing 64-percent of the total offense from 2007, George was able to bring in a recruiting class which ranked No. 7 - at the time the best in MSU history - to help shoulder some of the void left by the graduating class. That recruiting class helped George compile a 15-16 overall record in 2008, despite playing five freshmen at a time for most of the season. George spent the spring of 2008 coaching the USA A2 Red team to the USA Adult Open Championship. The USA A2 Red Team topped the University of Washington's Huskies VBC team, 3-1, in Atlanta. George and University of Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott, the A2 Blue coach, conducted training of 20 selected collegiate student-athletes before the championships and split the student-athletes into two teams for competition. George's A2 Red Team took home the gold, while the Blue team finished with the bronze. This was George's second stint with USA Volleyball, after serving as an assistant coach for the US team at the 1999 World University Games.
George guided the Spartans to the NCAA Regional Semifinals and a fifth-place finish in the Big Ten in 2007, going 21-14 overall. The Spartans entered postseason play in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2002-03. Under George's guidance, senior Ashley Schatzle became the Spartans' seventh AVCA All-American, leading the team with 553 kills.
George guided MSU to the 2006 NCAA Tournament in just her second year at the helm of the Spartan program. George led a rebuilding Spartan squad to a 19-12 overall record, including a 10-10 mark in Big Ten play. The Green and White made its first trip to postseason play since the 2003 campaign. Ashley Schatzle earned All-Big Ten honors while Katie Johnson repeated as an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten pick, and competed with the U.S. Women's National Volleyball A2 Program during the summer of 2007. Vanessa King garnered 2006 All-Big Ten Freshman Team accolades.
In George's first year as head coach, the Spartans finished the season with a 12-18 record, going 5-15 in conference action. George also saw three Big Ten Player of the Week honorees and two Third-Team 2006 ESPN Magazine Academic All-America Volleyball District IV Team members , while Katie Johnson earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors.
George was hired as the fifth coach in the history of Michigan State volleyball in December of 2004. Prior to her hiring at Michigan State, George spent 11 years guiding the Western Michigan University program, where she compiled a 185-139 record. Taking over the reins at WMU prior to the 1994 season, George's Broncos qualified for eight NCAA Tournament appearances, reached eight consecutive MAC Tournaments beginning with the 1997 campaign, and her Bronco squad made back-to-back MAC Tournament title match appearances in 1999 and 2000, capturing the title in 2000. George reached the 300-win mark in 2000, and was named the MAC Coach of the Year that same season after guiding the Broncos to the MAC title. She has also gained international experience as an assistant coach for the 1999 U.S. Team in the World University Games, held in Mallorca, Spain.
George's student-athletes at WMU earned all-conference and national honors while enjoying academic success Sixteen players earned academic all-conference honors during her time at Western Michigan, while four players were named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team. Her teams posted grade-point averages of 3.00 or better, and boasted a 100-percent graduation rate in 10 of her 11 seasons. On the court, George recruited high-caliber student-athletes, as three WMU players trained with various U.S. national teams. In 1999, two players were honored with the chance to compete with the Pan Am Games Training Team, while another Bronco was selected to the 2001 U.S. National A2 team. Western Michigan's success under George led to increased attendance, as the Broncos led the MAC in total attendance in eight of her 11 seasons. She also worked to reinstate the Bronco Spikers' Club, which takes part in activities involving the team throughout the year, including pre-match chalk talks, tailgates and post-match wrap-ups.
Prior to her arrival at Western Michigan, George was the head coach at Texas-Arlington from 1989-1993. She led UTA to the 1989 and 1990 NCAA Tournaments, with a school-record third-place national finish in 1989. With the Mavs, she became the first woman to coach in the NCAA Division I Final Four (1989) and she earned Southland Conference Coach of the Year honors three times (1989, 1990, `92) as she posted a record of 93-74 in her five seasons. George's teams won Southland Conference titles in 1989, 1990 and 1992, were 37-4 in conference play (.902), and finished with a 10-2 record in postseason competition during her tenure.
George got her start as a collegiate coach at North Dakota State in 1987-88, leading the Bison to an 87-11 (.888) record in her two seasons. In 1987, NDSU posted a 44-8 mark en route to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Division II Championships, and went 43-3 in 1988, finishing third. She was named North Central Conference and regional Coach of the Year in both 1987 and 1988, as well as garnering NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year honors in 1988.
A 1985 graduate of Illinois State and four-year letterwinner in the volleyball program, George helped the Redbirds win three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. A team captain and crafty outside attacker, she was a three-time All-MVC selection who earned all-region honors.
George, who earned her master's degree in education from Central Michigan in 1987, resides in Okemos, Mich., with her husband Jerry and their two sons, T.J., 21, and Conner, 16.