If resuming Big Ten play against Illinois and Northwestern this weekend isn’t enough to motivate senior setter Kristen Kelsay, a certain player on the Illinois roster certainly will provide some additional motivation.
Freshman setter/defensive specialist McKenna Kelsay, Kristen’s little sister, will be on the opposing bench.
And Kristen doesn’t plan on going easy on her younger sibling.
“Definitely on Friday night when we step on the court, our game faces will be on,” Kristen said. “Right now, we’re just really excited. It’s a blessing for us to be on the same court together against each other, or really with each other in that aspect.”
It’s sure to be a friendly sibling rivalry Friday night as Kristen looks to lead the No. 9 MSU volleyball team (13-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) to their 12th-straight victory.
“She’s still fighting for playing time, as any freshman is,” Kristen said. “So we’ll see whether or not she gets on that court.
“But either way, we’re both on this big court together.”
Though Illinois is unranked, it should be a tough matchup for MSU. The Fighting Illini beat the Spartans at Jenison Field House last year, and made a national championship appearance as recently as two years ago.
“They’re a very talented team, they have a lot of those players still on the team,” head coach Cathy George said.
George complimented Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly, saying he’s done a great job with the Fighting Illini during his time as head coach.
“They’ll be ready to play, there’s no doubt in my mind,” George said.
MSU will take on Northwestern Saturday. Similar to Illinios, Northwestern handed MSU a home loss last season.
“(Northwestern is) very, very disciplined, plays good defense and have some great players on their team as well,” George said.
Illinois and Northwestern will be facing a higher-ranked Spartan team compared to last year, and their desire to exit the weekend with an upset will keep MSU on their toes.
“After beating a team like Penn State, everyone in the nation takes notice of you,” junior libero Kori Moster said. “Now we’re not able to be this underlying team that’s gonna come out and take people by surprise.”
However, the team understands the challenge of Big Ten season and that upsets can happen with regularity. They will approach the weekend with the same mindset of last week’s upset over then-No. 1 Penn State.
As George said, it’s not the team’s first rodeo.
“We do know how tough the Big Ten is,” George said. “It’s easy to keep it into perspective and keep it right there.”
MSU will play Illinois at 7 p.m. Friday and will take on Northwestern at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Saturday’s game against Northwestern is Children’s Cancer Awareness night. Fans are encouraged to wear pajamas to support children’s cancer research, and coaches and players will wear ribbons in support of the cause. Fans also can bring art supplies as donations for Michigan State Children’s Clinic at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.