In front of nearly 4,000 fans in Austin, Texas, a year ago, the MSU volleyball team saw its season come to an end in the NCAA Tournament against No. 1-seeded Texas. Not only did the loss knock the Spartans out of the Big Dance, but it closed the book on head coach Cathy George’s winningest team since she came to MSU in 2005.
During that match, then-freshman Kori Moster nervously was playing on the floor during the dominating three-set sweep performed on the Longhorns’ home court, Gregory Gymnasium.
Recalling one of the most nerve-racking nights of her volleyball career, Moster said playing on the big stage brought out an unfamiliar wave of emotions.
“Usually, I don’t get nervous very easily, and in that sort of situation, it was different for me because we played at Texas, the No. 1 team going into the tournament, and there were a lot of fans rooting for Texas,” Moster said. “So as a freshman, it was intimidating.”
Now that a year has gone by, Moster has passed on the title of new kid on the block, as freshman Halle Peterson — one of four freshman on the roster, but the most frequent contributor of the class — will be the one starring in her first NCAA Tournament.
With the time before the first serve of the tournament ticking away, Peterson provides a cool and collected persona that resembles that of former Spartan volleyball great, Jenilee Rathje.
Peterson’s calm attitude stems from the upcoming tournament being reminiscent of her days at Rockford High School, where her team won an MHSAA Class A Championship last year. As a Big Ten All-Freshman team honoree, Peterson is used to being composed in key situations, but even she knows she likely will get nervous once she takes the floor.
“I’m sure when warm-ups come around, I’ll start to get nervous, but right now, it’s just excitement,” Peterson said.
George didn’t hesitate to lay down her expectations when asked about what she anticipates from her young players this weekend.
“I’m expecting (the freshmen) to play like they do in every Big Ten game, which is really playing teams rated (highly) all the way through,” George said.
Just like her coach, Moster expects Peterson to pick up where she left off in her season, where she totaled 529 assists in 113 sets of action.
“She’s done a great job; she’s been tested a lot this year and has been faced with a lot of adversity this year,” Moster said.
Peterson and the rest of the Spartans will have their first tournament test against San Diego at 8:30 p.m. Friday in UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.