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Volleyball Tops Connecticut to Win Fifth Straight MSU Showcase

Sept. 13, 2008

Box Score

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  • Cathy George
  • Jenilee Rathje

    EAST LANSING, Mich. - The 2008 Michigan State volleyball squad earned its fifth consecutive MSU Showcase title after topping the Connecticut Huskies 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-14) Saturday night at Jenison Field House. With the win, MSU improves to 6-3 on the season and is riding a six-match win streak.

    The Spartans' Vanessa King (Spring Lake, Mich.) earned her second consecutive tournament Most Valuable Player honor, following up her Delaware Invitational recognition last weekend. Freshman Natalie Emro (Wildwood, Mo.) and sophomore Jenilee Rathje (Mount Pleasant, Mich.) were also named to the all-tournament team. Joining the three Spartans was Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Lauren Felsing and Natalie Schmitting, Connecticut's Jessica Issac and Florida A&M's Cinthya Cozso.

    "They are really putting things together and it is really nice to see," expressed MSU head coach Cathy George. "I know we haven't arrived yet, but we are definitely improving."

    King helped the Spartans establish their game early, building a 9-5 advantage over the Huskies in the first set. King tallied three of the Spartans points on kills from the middle during that stretch. MSU was able to take advantage of several miscues by Connecticut, including three service errors, to extend their lead to 16-6.

    MSU continued to pound the ball at the net throughout the remainder of the set, winning 25-19. In fact, the Spartans hit .409 in the first set, led by King who had four kills on just four swings. The Huskies hit .360, but committed six service errors, which proved to be the difference in the set. Freshman Becca Zlabis (Wheaton, Ill.) posted five kills while hitting .750 while Rathje added three more.



    Rathje and Zlabis would continue to lead the way for the Spartans in the second set as the two of them were able to control the play from the outside. Jumping out to a 10-5 lead, the green and white seemed in control of the set, but the Huskies would make adjustments to the Spartan attack and respond by taking a 16-15 lead.

    Once again, the Huskies would fall victim to their serving, tallying four more service errors in the second set, enabling MSU to keep close. With the Spartans trailing 19-18, both Carli Weiler (Oak Lawn, Mich.) and Allyson Karaba (Muskegon, Mich.) would tally two spectacular digs that led to a Rathje kill, knotting the set at 19. On the very next point, Rathje would send a pipe ball to the back line, putting MSU back on top 20-19.

    After a Rathje kill that pushed the Spartan advantage to 22-21, Karaba would tally two consecutive aces, extending the Spartan lead to 24-21. An attack error by the Huskies would give MSU the second set, 25-21.

    Rathje tallied seven kills in the second set, bumping her match total to 10 while hitting a team best .588. Through the first two sets, UConn outhit the Spartans .358 to .340, but could not overcome 10 service errors and three return errors, giving MSU the edge.

    The Spartans jumped out early in the third set and would never look back. Freshman Kyndra Abron (Livonia, Mich.) helped the Spartans put the match away as she tallied two consecutive kills late in the set, giving MSU a 22-13 lead. Junior Mischelle Nelson (Naperville, Ill.) would tally the final kill of the match, giving the Spartans a 25-14 victory in the third set.

    MSU hit a team-high .440 on the night, posting 42 kills on 75 swing, with only nine errors. Rathje led the way with 14 kills on 21 attempts with no errors for a .667 hitting percentage. Zlabis added nine kills, while Abron and Emro chipped in six apiece. Emro also dished out 25 assists. Karaba anchored the defense with 11 of the team's 23 digs.

    Michigan State returns to Jenison Field House on Tuesday for a matchup with Oakland. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m. with video and audio coverage, featuring the voice of the Spartans John Kreger, being provided on

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