Michigan State Spartan Volleyball Opens the Season 6-0 With Two Tournament Titles!

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Volleyball Rallies Back To Defeat Toledo, 3-0

Rathje earns second-straight MVP honor.


EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State volleyball team (6-0) captured its eighth-straight Spartan Showcase crown with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-23) win over Toledo on Saturday, Sept. 3. Earning her second-straight MVP honors was senior Jenilee Rathje, as she recorded 14 kills against Toledo for 47 on the weekend.


The Spartans also continued their streak of six-straight matches to start the season without dropping a single set, the first time in program history since 1975.


“I have to be pleased with the fact that we have learned something from every outing,” said MSU head coach Cathy George. “Tonight, we didn’t play very well. It was very ugly, but we found a way to win. I was very impressed with the comeback that we made. Jenilee played like a senior all-American tonight, and in all of those sets, she came back and made a difference in how we concluded the match.”


MSU struggled to close out the set on a high note after taking the first point of the match against Toledo. UT responded with five straight to hold a 5-1 lead over the Green and White. The Rockets began to move its lead to six, their largest of the set, at 10-4. MSU began to reel Toledo in when it got within two at 10-12. The Rockets once again pushed its lead to five at 19-14, with MSU calling its first timeout of the match. A critical block from senior Natalie Emro and sophomore Kelsey Kuipers at 18-19 caused Toledo to call its first timeout of the match. With MSU on an 8-1 run capped off by a terminated ball from senior Kyndra Abron, the Rockets called their second timeout with Michigan State leading, 22-20. The Spartans closed out the opening set on an 11-2 run to win set one, 25-21. Abron was the top offensive force for the Green and White in set one with five kills, following by junior Amy Dentlinger’s four.


Using the momentum from set one, MSU got four of the first five points to continue its 15-3 and bringing its score to 4-1 following a kill from Rathje. After the next four points went to Toledo, the Spartans began to fall back on their heels, trailing 5-4. UT’s lead became two at 8-6 before the set was once again tied up at eight points each. Toledo began to get into the driver’s seat as it took the next three to hold an 11-8 advantage. MSU crawled back within two at 16-14; however UT took the next three to hold a 19-14 lead with the Green and White calling the first timeout of the set. A 5-1 run in favor of MSU, capped off by a strong kill by Rathje, put Toledo back on its heals with its 20-19 lead. The Spartans once again tied up the set at 21-21 following a Toledo attack error. A timely block from Abron and sophomore Alexis Mathews brought UT into its final timeout of the set at 24-22. Rathje finally ended the set for the Green and White with the score at 25-23. Rathje turned it on offensively during set two with eight of the team’s 18 kills.


The Spartans closed out the match by taking the first two points of the set. Toledo rallied back to tie at three, before holding a 6-4 lead over the Green and White. Michigan State clawed back to hold a two-point advantage at 9-7. The Rockets took the next three to once again hold an advantage over the Spartans at 10-9. After trading service with UT for the next several points, junior Gina Lang terminated a ball to give the Spartans a two-point lead at 13-11. With four of the next five points going to Toledo, it held the lead once again at 15-14. The Spartans once again tied held a two-point lead at 17-15 before the set was tied at 19, each. The Rockets took the 22-21 lead, as the Spartans called their first timeout of the set. Two-straight points for the Spartans gave them a 23-22 lead with UT calling a timeout. Two points later at match point, 24-23, Toledo called its final timeout in an effort to ice the Spartans. MSU responded following the break with a critical match-ending solo block from Abron on the right side, ending the set at 25-23. Lang and Rathje both tallied four kills during set three.


Rathje was joined by classmate Kyndra Abron and sophomore Alexis Mathews on the all-tournament team for the Green and White. On the weekend, Abron recorded 2.89 kills per set while attacking .333. Mathews was second out of all players with a .419 hitting mark while leading the tournament with 1.67 blocks a set.


Abron joined Rathje with 12 kills on the night, attacking .333. Senior Carli Weiler tallied a team-best 12 digs to anchor the Spartan defense, while Rathje added another 10 digs for her first double-double of the season. At the net, Abron was the top block with four total blocks. Sophomore Kristen Kelsay dished out a team-high 24 assists, while Emro chipped in another 12.


The Spartans return to action next weekend when they travel to Bowling Green, Ohio on Friday-Saturday, Sept. 9-10 for the Best Western Falcon Plaza Invitational against BGSU, Canisius and South Illinois-Edwardsville. Action kicks-off against the Falcons on Friday at 6 p.m.


All-Tournament Team

Jenilee Rathje (Michigan State) - MVP

Kyndra Abron (Michigan State)

Alexis Mathews (Michigan State)

Jackie Dabbelt (Cleveland State)

Kara Koch (Cleveland State)

Darlene Ramdin (St. John's)

Becca Reidy (Toledo)