Column: Spartans not taken lightly after UCLA win
For the better part of its season, the MSU volleyball team has been playing a role most teams despise being in: the underdog role.
But throughout the year, the Spartans continually have said they embrace being the team that shocks the volleyball world every other week.
It’s a role that came to light once again Saturday night.
Although flying under the radar for much of the year, the Spartans made their presence known after knocking out the defending national champion, No. 7 UCLA.
Then again, they had no choice but to play the underdog role as they have been left out of the top 25 rankings since Oct. 13. During that unranked span, they compiled a six-game winning streak, including back-to-back wins over then-No. 4 Nebraska and then-No. 10 Minnesota.
It’s been an incredible run thus far, but it seems as if it’s just the beginning.
Most people will look at that match as a huge upset, but now it’s time to realize that this hardly is an abnormality. This team has surprised top teams so much that it’s no longer a surprise to see it knock off giant after giant.
Their latest victory against the Bruins should be a wake-up call to the volleyball world that head coach Cathy George and her Spartans are not a team to take lightly.
This year’s Spartan team has made so many quiet splashes throughout the season that the Big Ten should expect to be drenched with Spartan success in the years to come.
And it’s not just this season with big wins that should give MSU that glass-half-full approach — it’s also the talent.
Next season, the Spartans will welcome back four crucial juniors who likely will repeat this season’s success.
On defense, middle blocker Alexis Mathews has stifled teams at the net and has given the Spartans spontaneous offensive dominance. Middle blocker Kelsey Kuipers comes on as a crucial player who plays both sides of the net with reliability. Setter Kristen Kelsay not only has given outside hitters scores of assists this year, but she also brings incredible leadership to the team as well.
And needless to say, outside hitter Lauren Wicinski has taken over many matches during her first year as a Spartan, and there likely will only be improvement next season.
Sophomore libero and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Kori Moster also will give the Spartans great backcourt defense on which to rely. Moster, however, isn’t the only underclassman to show promise this season, as sophomore middle blocker Jazmine White and freshman setter Halle Peterson have performed just as well as anyone else this season on both ends of the net.
For the time being, these players have the opportunity to do something special by making a run at the program’s first NCAA title, which looks more and more possible as time moves along. They’ve knocked out a giant before, and have proved they will move through as many as it takes to bring a championship back to East Lansing.