Volleyball Travels to Kentucky for First Round of NCAAs
 
 
 
Jenilee Rathje and the Spartans will be making their third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years on Friday, Dec. 4, against Kentucky.
 
Jenilee Rathje and the Spartans will be making their third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years on Friday, Dec. 4, against Kentucky.
 
 

Dec. 2, 2009

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State will be making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years and 13th overall. Similar to the 2007 tournament, MSU has drawn Kentucky as its first-round opponent. However, this time it will be on the Wildcats' home court. The match is slated to begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. The following night, the victor of the Spartans against UK will face the winner of the Oregon and Clemson match-up at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the NCAA Regional Semifinals in Minneapolis.



Michigan State Spartans (17-15)
No. 13 Kentucky (27-4) • No. 17 Oregon (19-9) • Clemson (23-9)
NCAA Tournament First & Second Round • Lexington, Ky. • Memorial Coliseum

Game Information
Date: Fri.-Sat., Dec. 4-5
Time: 7 p.m. ET; 7 p.m. ET
Location: Lexington, Ky.
Arena: Memorial Coliseum

Coverage:
Video Streaming (Free) | Live Audio (Free) | GameTracker

Coaches
Michigan State
Cathy George (Illinois State `85)
Overall Record: 449-299 (23rd)
Record at MSU: 84-75 (fifth)

Kentucky
Craig Skinner (Ball State `93)
Overall Record: 111-44 (Sixth)
Record at UK: same

Clemson
Jolene Jordan Hoover (Illinois State `86)
Overall Record: 452-223 (20th)
Record at CU: 360-194 (17th)

Oregon
Jim Moore (Long Beach State `80)
Overall Record: 447-215 (21st)
Record at UO: 95-59 (fifth)

Series History
Michigan State is 4-0 all-time against Kentucky while posting a 1-1 record against Clemson. The Spartans have never faced Oregon.

Last Time Out
The Spartans closed out the regular season on the road with matches against No.1 Penn State and Ohio State. On Friday, against the Nittany Lions, MSU fell behind early and were unable to make a come back, falling 3-0. The following night, against the Buckeyes, Michigan State once again struggled early, falling to OSU, 3-0.

Scouting the Wildcats
The Wildcats have posted a record of 27-4, with a 17-3 Southeastern Conference (SEC) record. Kentucky is led up front by Sarah Mendoza who currently leads the team with 473 kills, 300 of those have occurred in SEC play. Sarah Rumely quarterbacks the Wildcats offense, tallying 859 assists in conference play, and 1,348 overall. The backcourt is led by BriAnne Sauer who currently averages 4.57 digs per set overall and 5.19 in conferences matches. Gretchen Giesler has tallied 125 total blocks this season, while seeing 87 of those in SEC play. Head coach Craig Skinner is currently in his sixth season with the Wildcats. Skinner enters the weekend with a career record of 111-44.

Two weekends ago, Kentucky hosted No. 13 Florida on Sunday, Nov. 22. The Gators got the better end of the Wildcats, downing UK 3-1. On Wednesday, Nov. 25, Kentucky traveled to Tennessee for its final match of the regular season. In a match that went the distance, the Vols held off the late surge from UK to defeat the Wildcats in the fifth and final set, 16-14, earning the 3-2 match win.

UK is 3-0 against mutual opponents this season - Northwestern, Indiana and Purdue - while MSU is 3-3 against the combined teams.

Scouting the Ducks
The Ducks enter the weekend with a 19-9 overall record, while also posting a 9-9 Pac-10 Conference record. Nevena Djordjevic is leading the team with 1,274 assists this season, seeing 888 of those in conference action. Pacing the attack is Sonja Newcombe who has tallied 327 kills in conference play and 447 overall. Neticia Enesi leads the team with 116 blocks, tallying 79 in the conference. Kellie Kawasaki anchors the last line of defense for the Ducks with her 242 overall digs, and 219 within the conference. At the helm of the Ducks is fifth-year head coach Jim Moore, who boasts a school record of 95-59.

Last week Oregon made a trip to the state of Washington for two matches. On Wednesday, Nov. 25, against Washington State the Ducks held off the surge from the Cougars as they downed WSU in four, 3-1. Oregon then proceed to its next match on Friday, Nov. 27, against No. 4 Washington. After dropping the first two sets, OU rallied back in the final three sets to top the Huskies, 3-2.

The Ducks and the Spartans have two mutual opponents, Minnesota and USC. Oregon is 1-2 against the opponents, while MSU boasts an identical mark.

Scouting the Tigers
The Tigers have posted a record of 23-9, with a 13-7 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) record. Clemson is led up front by Lia Proctor who currently leads the team with 463 kills, tallying 302 of those in ACC action. Kelsey Murphy quarterbacks the Tiger offense, tallying 1,290 overall assists and 817 within the conference. The backcourt is led by Didem Ege who currently averages 4.88 digs per set overall and 4.82 in conference play. Alexa Rand has tallied 155 total blocks this season and 70 against ACC opponents. Head coach Jolene Jordan Hoover is currently in her 17th season with the Tigers and enters the weekend with a school record of 360-194.

Clemson entertained two ACC opponents during its last two matches of the regular season. On Saturday, Nov. 21, against Virginia, the Tigers dropped the first set of the match to the Cavaliers. However, Clemson remained strong as it earned the wins in the following three sets, downing Virginia 3-1. In the last match of the regular season, Clemson entertained Georgia Tech. In a match which saw each team win alternating sets, the Yellow Jackets were victories, winning the fifth set 15-7, and the match 3-2.

The Tigers and the Spartans could potentially meet for the second time this season. Earlier this season MSU downed Clemson at the Clemson Classic in five sets, 3-2. The two teams also have three mutual opponents, Presbyterian, Furman and North Carolina. The Tigers boast a 3-1 record against those three teams, while MSU is 3-0 against the mutual opponents.

Spartans in the NCAA Tournament
MSU will be making its third NCAA Tournament appearance within the last four years, with each trip under the reign of head coach Cathy George. This will also mark Michigan State's 13th overall trip in the dance. Overall, the Spartans are 13-12 in tournament matches all-time.

Approaching 450
Head coach Cathy George is one win shy of her 450th career victory. George will look to be come the 38th active coach to achieve the 450 milestone.

Abron Earns First-Team Honors
As announced by the Big Ten Conference on Nov. 30, Kyndra Abron has been named to the First-Team All-Big Ten Team, becoming just the 13th different Spartan in school history to be honored as a first-team selection. Abron is the lone sophomore on the list of 14, which is also comprised of three seniors and 10 juniors. Abron also becomes just the third sophomore in MSU history to receive first-team honors, joining Val Sterk in 1994 and Jenna Wrobel in 1996.

Follow the Leader
Junior Megan Schatzle has followed in the foot-steps of older sister Ashley Schatzle. Ashley, a third-team AVCA All-American in 2007, led the team with 553 kills during the year. While in 2009, like her older sister, Megan led the team in kills, tallying 320 kills. This marks the second consecutive time the Spartans have been paced by a Schatzle on their voyage to the NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore Sensations
With the 2008 No. 7 PrepVolleyball.com recruiting class able to see ample amount of court time last season, the sophomore class seems to really be finding their element this season. Collectively, the class has amounted for 941 of the 1,626 team kills. Also, the sophomores have also accounted for 226 total blocks. Having added redshirt-sophomore Jenilee Rathje to their class, the Spartans are bound for success in the years to come. The class has collectively earned three of the four MVP honors this season for the Spartans.

Movin' On Up
Sophomore Natalie Emro currently ranks fifth all-time in career assists with 2,512. Senior Vanessa King recently moved into fourth place all-time with 451 total blocks in a career. King also ranks fourth all-time with 412 block assists.

Big Ten Rankings
The Spartans currently boast four members ranking in the Big Ten individually. Sophomore Natalie Emro currently is fourth in the conference with 10.64 assists per set, while ranking ninth in aces per set with 0.26. Junior Allyson Karaba is third in the conference with 4.21 digs per set. Senior Vanessa King ranks eighth in blocks per set with 1.01. Senior Mischelle Nelson is seventh in the conference with a .326 hitting percentage.

Fandemonium
MSU is currently listed as 16th in the recent DI Volleyball Attendance Rankings. To date, the Spartans have seen 26,092 fans pass through the turnstyles for their 13 matches, which averages out to be 2,007 fans per match. The Spartans are one of six Big Ten schools to be ranked in the top-25 and have been in the top-25 since 1995.

Sister-Sister
Redshirt-freshman Mandi Karaba and junior Allyson Karaba are the third set of sisters to play under coach Cathy George during her Spartan tenure. The first pair of sisters occurred in 2005 when Marley Bellwood and Tracy Bellwood played with one another for 76 matches in Coach George's first season. The other pairing was of All-American Ashley Schatzle and current junior Megan Schatzle. Together, the Schatzle's have played in four sets together whereas the Karaba's have participated in 21 matches this season with one another. Allyson and Mandi know what it takes to be successful on the court, having led their North Muskegon high school team to a Class C state championship during the 2006 season.

Big Ten in the Round of 64
Aside from the Spartans in the 2009 NCAA tournament, the Big Ten will be sending five other schools to appear in the yearly tournament. Joining MSU will be Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State.