Record-Setting Season Celebrated at Volleyball Banquet
Garvelink Earns MVP Honors for the second straight season
East Lansing, Mich. -- - Michigan State celebrated its 2017 season on Sunday at the Kellogg Center with a crowd of nearly 200 families, friends, and fans of the program. The Spartans, who advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1996 and had a program-best four players earn All-America honors, handed out team awards and heard from the program's seven seniors.
Seniors Rachel Minarick, Alyssa Garvelink, Abby Monson, Autumn Bailey, and Megan Tompkins each shared their fond memories of their MSU careers, while two other seniors - Holly Toliver and Brooke Kranda - had their families read their senior speeches. Toliver has begun her professional volleyball career in Lima, Peru, and Kranda has begun hers in the Philippines.
The team awards were decided by a vote of the 16 team members.
There were several milestones for the team to celebrate in its final gathering -- the Spartans not only advanced to the NCAA Regional Final, but earned the program's highest final national ranking (No. 8) since the 1998 season as well. The Spartans finished the season with a 24-9 overall record and went 14-6 in the Big Ten Conference, finishing fourth (the highest finish for the program since 2001). The Spartans had four student-athletes who earned AVCA All-America honors and All-Big Ten distinction, while six earned Academic All-Big Ten honors. In addition, MSU coach Cathy George became the program's winningest coach, as she also passed the 600-victory milestone in her career. A complete list of 2017 team and individual honors can be found here.
Team MVP honors went to senior middle blocker Alyssa Garvelink (Holland, Mich.) for the second consecutive season. Garvelink capped her career with Second Team AVCA All-America honors for the second straight year, as well as earning a spot on the All-Big Ten team for the second time in her career as well. Garvelink, who was a preseason All-Big Ten selection, led MSU with 1.35 blocks per set and a .374 hitting percentage, while posting 2.59 kills per set. She ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 25th nationally in blocks per set, and 36th nationally and sixth in the Conference in hitting percentage. In the NCAA Tournament, the senior co-captain averaged 1.50 blocks per set, which ranked 13th among players in the Tournament. In addition to her success on the court, Garvelink earned Academic All-Big Ten honors and was a Second Team CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.
Garvelink surpassed 1,000 career kills in the Nov. 18 match vs. Indiana - she is the 23rd Spartan to reach the milestone. Her .374 hitting percentage on the season is sixth all-time in a single season at MSU, and her block assists (137) is eighth. Garvelink finished her career ranked sixth all-time in hitting percentage (.304), third in block assists (499), fifth in total blocks (557) and fifth in blocks per set (1.21). She ranks 26th all-time in the Big Ten in career blocks (557).
The team's Playmaker Award went to outside hitter Autumn Bailey (Burlington, Ontario), who earned Second Team AVCA All-America honors. In 2017, she led the Spartans with 3.61 kills per frame (seventh, B1G), hit .279, and averaged 3.17 digs per set (11th, B1G). Bailey is the only six-rotation player in the Big Ten ranked in the top 11 in the league in both categories. She posted 12 double-doubles on the season (two in the NCAA Tournament), exceeding her total from 2016 and pushing her career total to 65. Despite spending just two seasons at MSU, Bailey's 2.93 digs per set in her MSU career ranks ninth all-time in the MSU record book. She is also eighth all-time at MSU in attempts per set (9.01) and 10th in kills per set (3.37).
In NCAA Tournament matches, Bailey averaged 4.14 kills per frame and 3.00 digs, while hitting .288. Bailey earned Honorable Mention All-America honors in each of the first three seasons of her career before earning Second Team kudos this season. Over four seasons, Bailey accumulated 1,830 career terminations (which includes 1,059 in her two seasons at Marquette), which ranked sixth among active Division I players, and is also sixth in career attempts (4,873). She is 21st among active players in kills per set (3.94), and also boasts 1,436 career digs, which is 66th - but she rankeds sixth in career digs among six-rotation OH.
The team's Extra Mile Award was given to freshman libero Jamye Cox (Oregon, Ohio). She was one of just four players to appear in all 112 sets on the season, and took over as the team's libero the week before Big Ten play began. She compiled 388 digs on the season, the second-most digs for a freshman in a season in program history. On the year, she averaged 3.46 digs per set, ranking tenth in the Big Ten and second among league freshmen. Over four NCAA Tournament matches, she averaged 5.0 digs per set, which ranked 13th nationally and second among players in the Big Ten.
Most Improved Player honors went to freshman outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski (Munster, Ind.). With MSU's senior-laden lineup, Chronowski may not have seen the floor in many matches, but impressed her coaches and teammates with her rapid improvement throughout the season. She made her collegiate debut vs. San Diego State on September 1, and the reps she received as a freshman -- practicing across the net from four All-Americans all season -- has her poised for a much larger role as a sophomore.
MSU's Most Inspirational Award was given to sophomore defensive specialist Samantha McLean (Grand Rapids, Mich.) McLean is a regular in MSU's defensive rotation who appeared in 24 matches before missing the final seven matches of the year recovering from injuries she incurred in an automotive accident. She had a career-best 11 digs in MSU's upset of No. 5 Wisconsin to open the Big Ten season on Sept. 22, one of two double-digit dig performances for her on the year. McLean has been fully cleared to compete for the Spartans in spring ball. McLean also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in her first year of eligibility.
Rachel Minarick (Naperville, Ill.) is the recipient of the Kirkby Scholar-Athlete Award for the second straight season. Minarick, a four-year starting setter, boasts a 3.97 GPA as a kinesiology major in MSU's Honors College. She is just the second First Team CoSIDA Academic All-America in MSU Volleyball program history. She has earned Academic All-Big Ten honors three times in her career and is a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.
Minarick's accolades in the classroom match her athletic honors. She will graduate as MSU's all-time assist leader (4,581) and also ranks 10th all-time at MSU in service aces (135) and ninth in career sets played (448). In 2017, she earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors, was an Honorable Mention AVCA All-America, and was named to the NCAA University Park Regional All-Tournament Team.