Column: MSU appears confident with Big Ten play looming
Junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski spikes the ball toward IPFW players on Friday at Jenison Field House during the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational.
Three weekends, three trophies.
So far, it seems as though MSU volleyball can do no wrong. The Spartans have opened the 2012 season with three consecutive invitational championships by winning the Spartan Showcase, University of Connecticut Classic and the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational over the last three weekends. Junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski now has garnered a pair of MVP trophies — sophomore libero Kori Moster took home the MVP from the Connecticut Classic — and no fewer than five Spartans have been named to an all-tournament team.
But it’s hard to look at early-season invitationals and get a real sense for what will happen when the Big Ten season gets started. The six other teams from their first two invitationals sport a combined record of 25-31, and only Youngstown State (8-3) features a record significantly better than .500. That’s where this weekend comes in.
Head coach Cathy George said last week that the team was well aware the competition was going to take a step forward, and the first game proved her right. IPFW took the Spartans to five sets Friday night and easily could have won if they’d gotten a couple of breaks here and there. To put the five-set victory in perspective, not only had MSU not played a fifth set this season, they’d only played one fourth set, coming in their second game of the season. So having a team to come into East Lansing and put the Spartans to the test like that was a big deal.
Furthermore, MSU responded to the test well, according to George. She said she liked the way the Spartans reacted to the clutch situations late in the game as they took control down the stretch.
The fact is that MSU’s greatest asset — aside from their size, which played a significant role in the win over Albany — is their mentality. George was very clear about the fact that the Spartans are always hoping to build on their performance, saying they look to add something every week.
Only one more weekend remains before the Big Ten season gets rolling, meaning MSU’s trip to Charleston, S.C., is the last chance to fine-tune things prior to facing off with Purdue to open the Big Ten season.
Junior middle blocker Alexis Mathews said they hope to use the road trip to work on “creating our own energy” without the benefit of a large home crowd.
Moster said she uses every game as a learning experience.
“We learned a lot of things (this weekend),” she said. “And that’s going to happen every game.”
With that kind of drive, someone should put the Big Ten on notice.
Caleb Nordgren is a State News sports reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.