Spartans Come Close, Can't Edge Shockers
Rathje finishes Nike Sooner Legends Invite with 64 kills, earns All-Tournamnet honors.
Aug. 30, 2008
Spartan Sports Podcast
NORMAN, Okla. - The Michigan State volleyball squad dropped to 0-3 on the season after dropping its Nike Sooner Legends tournament finale to the Wichita State Shockers 3-1 (25-23, 19-25, 25-27, 19-25). Sophomore outside hitter Jenilee Rathje (Mount Pleasant, Mich.) added 20 more kills in the finale, pushing her tournament total to 64, earning her a spot on the All-Tournament team.
"We still have to clean up some of our unforced errors, that will be key for us through the rest of the season," Associate Head Coach Russ Carney said. "We need to make teams earn their points and not give them free points."
The Spartans, who had traditionally fallen behind set after set in the tournament, did the exact opposite in set one jumping out to a 6-0 lead on the Shockers led by the attack of Becca Zlabis (Wheaton, Ill.) and the defensive play of starting libero Allyson Karaba (Muskegon, Mich.). The Spartans would go on to extend the lead to 11-4 as Zlabis and middle blocker Vanessa King (Spring Lake, Mich.) combined for seven kills.
The Shockers, who won their previous two matches in the tournament, would rally on the heels of middle blocker Sarah McGee, who tallied three kills and an ace, cutting the Spartan lead to 15-13 and eventually tying the set at 19. The key play came with the Spartans leading 20-19. An attack from the Shocker outside whizzed by the arms of a diving Rathje, missing the sideline by inches, giving the Spartans a 21-19 lead. The Spartans would take the set 25-23 after a Shocker attack caromed off the antenna.
Zlabis led the way for the Spartans in set one, tallying four kills on 11 attacks, giving her a .364 hitting percentage. The real bright spot came from Karaba as she had a fantastic set, recording 12 digs. As a team, MSU tallied 28 digs in the first set, a big reason for their victory. Rathje pitched in five kills, while King added four. Freshman Natalie Emro (Wildwood, Mo.) showed improved passing in the first set, tallying 15 assists.
The scrappiness that the Shockers had displayed all tournament got to the Spartans in the second set, as WSU took nearly every long rally from the Spartans. The Spartans fended off four straight set-points, but would drop the set 25-19. Freshman Kyndra Abron (Livonia, Mich.) tallied her first two kills of the match during the second set on just two attacks.
The Spartans would open set three a little sluggish, but would ride the play of King, Karaba and Abron to a 13-12 lead. The teams would go back and forth until MSU would take a 24-23 lead. Two critical mistakes, a ball handling error by Emro and a receiving error on Karaba, helped the Shockers earn the set, 27-25. Emro earned the second double-double of her career as she finished the third set with 38 assists and 11 digs.
The Spartans would open strong in the fourth set, earning two solo blocks for the first two points, the first by Rahtje and the second by Vineece Verdun (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), jumping out to a 2-0 lead. That's when King would come alive for the green and white, tallying two more kills, extending the Spartan advantage to 9-6. The Spartans back row passing was much better in the fourth set and helped them get out to a 14-11 advantage.
However, the Spartans could not hold on as they would drop the fourth set 25-19. With the loss, MSU finishes fourth at the Nike Sooner Legends Invite. Verdun would go on to finish the match with eight kills while hitting a team-best .467. Karaba would add 25 digs in her first start at libero in 2008.
The green and white will return to action next weekend as they travel to Delaware to take part in the Delaware Invitational. Live stats and streaming audio will be provided featuring the voice of the Spartans, John Kreger.