Before arriving at Michigan State, Cathy George had already established herself as one of the more well-respected coaches in the sport. Her 16 years on the MSU sideline has seen the Spartans ascend to one of the elite programs in the country. With NCAA appearances in seven of the last 10 years (including three trips to the Sweet 16 and an NCAA Elite Eight appearance in 2017), she has guided the Spartans to the most wins of any Michigan State head coach in program history.
More than just wins and losses, George has insisted on a level of accomplishments not only on the court, but in the classroom and community. George, her staff, and her players are mainstays in community outreach events, and can boast some of the most impressive academic accomplishments of any team at Michigan State. George’s players include 99 Academic All-B1G selections, seven Academic All-Americans, and 37 B1G Distinguished Scholars over 16 seasons.
Every year, George’s teams have attracted rapidly growing crowds to Jenison Field House, ranking in the top-25 in Division I attendance in each of the last 23 years. The Spartans ranked seventh nationally in average attendance, (3,101), as 46,510 fans took in a volleyball match at Jenison Field House in 2019, the ninth highest total among Division I programs. The Spartans have ranked among the top 12 in total attendance in each of the last 10 years, and have spent the last five seasons among the top 10 in the nation in average attendance.
George currently boasts a career record of 667-457, and is 302-233 while at MSU. She ranks 15th among active coaches for total wins in NCAA Division I volleyball. On November 11, 2017, she became the winningest head coach in program history (251 wins), surpassing Annelies Knoppers (250-197-18, 1974-84).
The head coach, has helped MSU to its longest stretch of sustained success. MSU’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2011-17 is the second-longest in school history. In addition, MSU, Nebraska, and Penn State were the only teams to finish also .500 or better in B1G play each year in that stretch.
MSU’s 15-15 record in 2019 and 17-16 mark the year prior marked a reloading period for the Spartans after the departure of seven seniors - all starters - from the 2017 Elite Eight campaign. The 2018 squad was the youngest roster in the B1G - MSU had just 40 combined games of B1G experience entering the season.
The accolades for MSU’s 2017 Elite Eight squad made the group one of the most decorated in program history, second to the 1995 Final Four squad. Going 24-9 overall and 14-6 in the B1G, MSU finished fourth in Conference play, and earned the fourth-most B1G wins in program history and the most since 1998. The trip to the NCAA Regional Final was MSU’s first since 1996, and its final ranking of No. 8 in the final AVCA national poll was also the highest for the program since the 1996 season.
MSU had four players earn All-America honors, which included Second Team kudos for Alyssa Garvelink, becoming the fourth player in program history to make the first, second, or third team in multiple seasons in MSU history. Autumn Bailey also earned Second Team honors, Rachel Minarick bookmarked her career with a second Honorable Mention Selection, and Holly Toliver was an Honorable Mention pick for the first time. Minarick also earned First Team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors - just the second player in program history to earn a place on the ultra-competitive First Team. Garvelink and Bailey (First Team), were joined by Minarick and Toliver (Honorable Mention) on the All-B1G team, MSU’s most picks in a single season since 2000.
In 2016, MSU finished the season with a 25-9 record, the most regular-season victories (24) for a Spartan team since 1996. The 25 victories also tied the most under George at the helm, while 13 Big Ten victories is tied for the fourth-most Conference victories in a season in program history, and the most under George. MSU was the overall No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament and hosted for the just the fifth time in school history and the first time since 2003.
Junior Alyssa Garvelink was named a First Team All-Big Ten selection and also a Second Team AVCA All-American, while both Autumn Bailey and Rachel Minarick were Honorable Mention picks by both organizations. In addition, Allyssah Fitterer earned her fourth consecutive All-Region honor, capturing the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award as well. The Spartans placed six athletes on Academic All-Big Ten teams, and Minarick was a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree.
In 2015, the Spartans overcame a host of frustrating injuries to maintain its fifth consecutive season of .500 or better in the Big Ten, going 19-14 and 10-10 in Conference play. The Spartans faced a showdown with the nation's No. 1 team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, and fell to Washington in Seattle, 3-1. In addition to team success, the Spartans also had high-achieving individual efforts. Both Chloe Reinig and Allyssah Fitterer were AVCA All-North selections, with Reinig also earning an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten nod. The Spartans also maintained their high standards in the classroom, with seven Academic All-Big Ten selections and three Big Ten Distinguished Scholars. George won her 200th match at Michigan State on Oct. 14, 2015, when the Spartans downed visiting Maryland at Jenison Field House.
Continuing MSU's history of exceptional success both on and off the court, senior Maggie Halloran earned the Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship at the conclusion of the 2015-16 academic year- she was the top female GPA recipient at the Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) Academic Gala and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA over her four seasons.
The Spartans boasted three Honorable Mention All-America selections in 2014 (tying it's program best), and pushed top overall seed Stanford before falling in four sets to the Cardinal in the NCAA Tournament. It was the fourth straight NCAA bid for MSU, only the second time in school history the Spartans accomplished that feat. During the season, senior Kori Moster cemented her spot in Big Ten volleyball lore, finishing third all-time in Big Ten history in career digs, while sophomore Chloe Reinig and freshman Rachel Minarick also were honored with post-season honors by both the AVCA and the Big Ten.
Every season, George's teams have attracted rapidly-growing crowds to Jenison Field House, ranking in the top-25 in Division I attendance in each of the last 20 years. The Spartans ranked eighth nationally in average attendance, (2,872), as 37,333 fans took in a volleyball match at Jenison Field House in 2015, the 11th highest total among Division I programs. The Spartans have set new attendance records in each of the last four seasons, with MSU setting a new single-game attendance mark at Jenison Field House in 2014, drawing 6,218 fans for an Oct. 3 match vs. archrival Michigan.
The 2013 season was a banner year for the Spartans, who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season and boasted three All-America selections. MSU went 11-1 in the pre-Big Ten portion of its schedule, capturing the Spartan Invitational and Butler Invitational Tournament titles and defeating the NCAA runner-up in 2012, No. 12 Oregon. The team then started the Big Ten season 6-0 and was ranked as high as fifth in the country; the Spartans opened the conference slate with an upset of No. 1 Penn State (3-1) on its home court, and capped its 6-0 start with a 3-1 home win over then-No. 9 Nebraska. In the NCAA Tournament, MSU downed Ohio and host No. 17 Kentucky in the first weekend, drawing No. 2 Penn State in the round of 16; MSU won the first set, but fell to the eventual National Champion Nittany Lions by a 3-1 score.
The individual accolades poured in for MSU over the course of the season. Junior libero Kori Moster earned her second straight Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honor, was an All-America selection, and was one of 12 players selected by USA Volleyball for the U.S. Collegiate National Team to tour China in June 2014. Lauren Wicinski completed her career with All-America honors for the fourth season in her career, and was a unanimous First Team All-Big Ten selection. Classmate Alexis Mathews earned her first-ever All-Big Ten accolades and was an honorable mention All-America pick, while earning a spot in the USA Volleyball training block in the spring of 2014. Meanwhile, co-captain Kristen Kelsay (now an assistant coach with the program) was an Academic All-America selection, captured the Gwendolyn Norrell Community Service & Leadership Award at the Student-Athlete Support Services Academic Gala for excelling in the field of community service and outreach, then won both the Chester Brewer Leadership Award as well as the Dr. James Feurig Achievement Award (honoring dedication, honesty, academic achievement, and perseverance), two of MSU's major athletic awards, at the end of the 2013-14 academic year. In addition, she was named the Detroit Athletic Club Female College Athlete of the Year as well as the recipient of a Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship.
MSU's freshman class, which was ranked seventh nationally in the pre-season, saw an immediate impact from Chloe Reinig, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, while classmate Allyssah Fitterer was an NCAA All-Regional team selection. In 2012, the Spartans reached the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season and advanced to the Regional Semifinals for the second time in five years. MSU opened the tournament with a 3-2 win over No. 18 San Diego and then upset defending national champion UCLA on its home floor, 3-1, in-route to the Sweet 16. The Spartans opened the season on a 12-match win streak that included four in-season tournament titles. George won her 500th match at Iowa, and the Spartans swept Michigan on its home floor. In November, Michigan State won six consecutive Big Ten matches, the best streak in program history since 1998. During that stretch, the Spartans upset No. 4 Nebraska 3-2, defeating a top-5 opponent for the first time since 1996. MSU followed that with a 3-1 win at No. 10 Minnesota, winning back-to-back matches over top-10 teams for the first time since 1995. Kori Moster earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was also named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski was named to the 16-member All-Big Ten team and Halle Peterson was named to the All-Freshman team. It was also the first time since 1995 that two Spartans were named AVCA All-Americans in the same season. Wicinski received second-team honors and Moster earned honorable mention accolades.
The Spartans made their way back to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, the ninth trip for George and her fourth at the helm of MSU. Michigan State started the season with six straight wins and two tournament titles, closing out the non-conference schedule with an 11-1 record. Rathje, one of the most decorated players in program history, was recognized as a third-team AVCA All-American and was a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten First Team for the second straight season. Fellow senior Kyndra Abron was also named to the All-Big Ten team as an honorable mention and was named to the COBRA Magazine Midwest All-Region Team for the second straight season along with Alexis Mathews.
The 2010 season saw the Green and White face one of the toughest schedules in the nation, as it played two of the 2009 NCAA semifinal teams over the course of the season. The Spartans closed out the 2010 campaign by winning four of their final six matches, highlighted by an impressive 3-0 win over then-No. 19 Michigan on Senior Night at the Breslin Center, before a record-setting crowd of 6,824. As a result of the 3-0 win, MSU regained the "State Pride Flag" for the first time since 2006. Redshirt junior Jenilee Rathje became the 17th player in program history to amass 1,000-career kills as she earned unanimous first team All-Big Ten honors as well as being named an AVCA All-Mideast Region honorable mention selection. Kyndra Abron was named to the COBRA Magazine Midwest All-Region Team while freshman Alexis Mathews was an honorable mention selection.
In 2009, the Spartans won their first 12 matches of the season, the third-best start to a year all-time and the best since the 1976 season. Along the way to the third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four seasons, the Green and White posted upset wins over then-No. 12 Southern California and then-No. 12 Illinois in the B1G home opener. Kyndra Abron was an Honorable mention AVCA All-America, and also was just the third Spartan to earn All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore.
After losing 64% of the total offense from 2007, George was able to bring in a recruiting class which ranked No. 7 (at the time the best in MSU history) to help shoulder some of the void left by the graduating class. That recruiting class helped George compile a 15-16 overall record in 2008, despite playing five freshmen at a time for most of the season. George spent the spring of 2008 coaching the USA A2 Red team to the USA Adult Open Championship. The USA A2 Red Team topped the University of Washington's Huskies VBC team, 3-1, in Atlanta. George's A2 Red Team took home the gold, while the Blue team finished with the bronze. This was George's second stint with USA Volleyball, after serving as an assistant coach for the US team at the 1999 World University Games.
George guided the Spartans to the NCAA Regional Semifinals and a fifth-place finish in the Big Ten in 2007, going 21-14 overall. The Spartans entered postseason play in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2002-03. Under George's guidance, senior Ashley Schatzle became the Spartans' seventh AVCA All-American.
George guided MSU to the 2006 NCAA Tournament in just her second year at the helm of the Spartan program. George led a rebuilding Spartan squad to a 19-12 overall record, including a 10-10 mark in Big Ten play. The Green and White made its first trip to postseason play since the 2003 campaign. Ashley Schatzle earned All-Big Ten honors while Katie Johnson repeated as an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten pick, and competed with the U.S. Women's National Volleyball A2 Program during the summer of 2007. Vanessa King garnered 2006 All-Big Ten Freshman Team accolades.
In George's first year as head coach in December 2004, and her first Spartan team in 2005 finished the season with a 12-18 record, going 5-15 in conference action. Katie Johnson earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors.
Prior to her arrival at Michigan State, George spent 11 years guiding the Western Michigan University program, where she compiled a 185-139 record. Taking over the reins at WMU prior to the 1994 season, George's Broncos qualified for eight consecutive MAC Tournaments beginning with the 1997 campaign, and her Bronco squad made back-to-back MAC Tournament title match appearances in 1999 and 2000, capturing the title in 2000. George reached the 300-win mark in 2000, and was named the MAC Coach of the Year that same season after guiding the Broncos to the MAC title and NCAA Tournament
George's student-athletes at WMU earned all-conference and national honors while enjoying academic success. Sixteen players earned academic all-conference honors during her time at Western Michigan, while four players were named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team. On the court, George recruited high-caliber student-athletes, as three WMU players trained with various U.S. national teams. In 1999, two players were honored with the chance to compete with the Pan Am Games Training Team, while another Bronco was selected to the 2001 U.S. National A2 team. Western Michigan's success under George led to increased attendance, as the Broncos led the MAC in total attendance in eight of her 11 seasons.
From 1989-93, George was the head coach at Texas-Arlington and led UTA to the 1989 and 1990 NCAA Tournaments, with a school-record third-place national finish in 1989. With the Mavs, she became the first woman to coach in the NCAA Division I Final Four (1989) and she earned Southland Conference Coach of the Year honors three times (1989, 1990, `92) as she posted a record of 93-74 in her five seasons. George's teams won Southland Conference titles in 1989, 1990 and 1992, were 37-4 in conference play (.902), and finished with a 10-2 record in postseason competition during her tenure.
George got her start as a collegiate coach at North Dakota State in 1987-88, leading the Bison to an 87-11 (.888) record in her two seasons. In 1987, NDSU posted a 44-8 mark en route to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Division II Championships, and went 43-3 in 1988, finishing third. She was named North Central Conference and regional Coach of the Year in both 1987 and 1988, as well as garnering NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year honors in 1988.
A 1985 graduate of Illinois State and four-year letterwinner in the volleyball program, George helped the Redbirds win three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. A team captain and crafty outside attacker, she was a three-time All-MVC selection who earned all-region honors.
George, who earned her master's degree in education from Central Michigan in 1987, resides in Okemos, with her husband Jerry, The couple has two sons: T.J., (a Michigan State graduate), and Conner, who currently attends the University and is a member of the men's basketball program.read more...