Volleyball Rallies to Defeat North Carolina, 3-2. MSU earns ninth-consecutive MSU Showcase title.

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State volleyball team (3-0) defeated North Carolina (1-2), 3-2, in the final game of the 2009 MSU Showcase on Saturday night at Jenison Field House. This win marked the Spartans ninth-consecutive MSU Showcase title, and is the best start to a season since 2006, when MSU began the season 6-0. Sophomore Kyndra Abron (Livonia, Mich.) was named tournament MVP, after posting a .526 hitting percentage over the course of the two-day event.


"It was very important to see how the team was going to respond today after the effort yesterday," said head coach Cathy George. "After finding themselves down in the second and third sets, it was important for us to see just how well our team was going to be able to battle back. This tournament has really helped us in preparing for the Big Ten Conference schedule, which opens up in a month. All of the teams we faced this weekend have all challenged us in their own ways, and it will certainly provide a great learning experience for this team."


After coming out strong in the first set, earning the win 25-16, the Spartans dropped the next two sets to UNC, 25-18 and 27-25.


After finding themselves down 10-6 in the fourth set, the Spartans and the Heels returned points with one another, making it a 13-10 game. Spartans were finally able to tie the set at 18, on an Ingrid Hanson-Tuntland attack error. MSU then went on a 7-4 run to clinch the fourth set, and force a deciding fifth set.


In the final set, MSU came out stuggish, dropping the first two points. The Green and White was able to rally, and find themselves tied with UNC at nine off of a thundering block from redshirt sophomore Jenilee Rathje (Mount Pleasant, Mich.), who brought the Spartan faithfuls to their feet. Following that block, MSU followed up winning the next three consecutive points, finding themselves in front 12-9, before UNC’s Courtney Johnston forced senior Vanessa King (Spring Lake, Mich.) into a blocking error, breaking the streak and making it a 12-10 game. Ever so slowly MSU began pulling away from UNC, making it a 3-2 run to close out the match. The Spartans were able to hold the Heels to a .050 hitting percentage in the fifth set.


Joining Abron on the All-Tournament Team, was sophomore Natalie Emro (Wildwood, Mo.) and junior Megan Schatzle (Monroe, Mich.) who followed suit with impressive tournament performances themselves. Over the course of the two-day tournament, Emro tallied 115 assists, while Schatzle added 38 kills to the Spartan attack. Today, Emro tallied 52 assists against the Heels, and Schatzle pounded 19 kills, leading the Spartan attack.


Tying for the team high of 11 digs was Rathje and junior Allyson Karaba (Muskegon, Mich.). King and fellow senior Mischelle Nelson each tied for the team high of six blocks. Rathje also recorded her third double-digit kill effort and her second double-double in two days, chipping in 14 kills vs. UNC.

The MSU Showcase was witnessed by 4,880 fans this weekend, including a tournament-best 2,084 attendance for tonight’s session. No. 12 Southern California finished second after beating Albany, 3-0 in the first game of the night session, bringing its record to 2-1 on the season.


The Spartans will return to action on Friday, Sept. 4 when they open up play at the Cleveland State Invitational when they face both Syracuse (1 p.m.) and Cleveland State (7 p.m.).