After an 11-game preseason, it’s finally here.
The Big Ten volleyball season has arrived, and it’ll start off with a bang.
No. 15 MSU will take on No. 1 Penn State Friday and No. 13 Ohio State on Sunday.
Those who are questioning just how good the 11-1 Spartans truly are will soon have their answers.
Even with its hot early-season start, MSU still has yet to create separation in the Big Ten.
Besides Illinois, every Big Ten team has a winning record. Eight Big Ten teams are present in the current AVCA coaches poll, with Wisconsin three places outside of the top 25.
MSU currently is the sixth-ranked team amongst ranked Big Ten teams. And with Penn State and Ohio State around the corner, MSU will look to prove themselves in a stacked conference.
In preseason play, MSU demonstrated an ability to adapt in the face of adversity — particularly in response to injuries.
Now that the roster is healthy, MSU will enter the weekend with a team that has proven its versatility.
The team will be boosted by last weekend’s return of sophomore setter Halle Peterson and freshman outside hitter Chloe Reinig.
The return of Peterson, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team last year, will allow junior defensive specialist Ryian Hubbard to return to her natural position.
Reinig, who was ranked the No. 4 senior recruit in the country by PrepVolleyball.com, will shift freshman Autumn Christenson from outside hitter to her natural position of middle blocker.
Both returnees played key roles for MSU this past weekend. Peterson had 14 assists in her return against Eastern Michigan Friday. Reinig totaled 13 kills in a win against Duquesne Saturday.
Once you factor in the record-setting play of outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (who cracked 2,000 career kills over the weekend) and the overall veteran leadership the roster possesses, it looks as though the stars are aligning for MSU.
Above all, it will be resiliency that separates MSU from the pack.
The Spartans showed resiliency when they lost Taylor Galloway to an ankle injury against Pacific, leading to their first and only season loss. They showed it when George plugged players into new positions to fill gaps in the lineup. They displayed it again when they closed out a 4-set win over Duquesne, arguably their toughest home match of the season.
To upset Penn State Friday, MSU will need that same resiliency. Based on what we’ve seen thus far, there’s no reason to believe they won’t have it.
Omari Sankofa II is a State News sports reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org