In the last three weeks, the MSU volleyball team has lost three starters to injury and four of its last six matches.
The recent skid has the No. 20 Spartans (12-7, 5-5 Big Ten) in jeopardy of falling out of the USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 for the first time this season. The new poll comes out today.
MSU head coach Chuck Erbe said dreams of a Big Ten Championship are finished.
You can forget the Big Ten, he said. You dont lose five (conference) matches and contend for a Big Ten Championship.
The only thing were trying to do is get to the NCAA Tournament. Its all weve got left.
Erbe said the Spartans need to step up and hold the team together while injured seniors Jessica Sanborn and Sarah Gustin recover. Sanborn has a broken bone in her foot and Gustin has a sprained foot.
Weve got to play well enough to get into the tournament, Erbe said. Weve got to beat the teams were supposed to beat and be competitive with the ones that are supposedly better than us.
Friday, the Spartans gave a competitive performance against No. 7 Minnesota in Jenison Field House. MSU won game one before dropping the last three (15-6, 8-15, 11-15, 4-15).
Statistically, Iowa was a team they were supposed to beat, but after winning the first two games, MSU dropped three straight and lost the match (15-1, 15-12, 10-15, 13-15, 11-15). The teams met Saturday at Jenison Field House.
Freshman outside hitter Amy Sibbernsen started both matches this weekend. It was her first action since she sprained her ankle in practice on Oct. 5.
Sibbernsen wasnt 100 percent and it showed, Erbe said. He added Iowa attacked MSUs freshmen every chance they got and exposed their inexperience.
Erbe said MSUs freshmen are talented athletes, but theres no special pill they can take for experience.
Theyve just got to step up faster than we thought, he said. Thats the bottom line because the other teams are not going to feel sorry for us. Theyre going to do their job, and we would do exactly the same thing.
With Sibbernsen and outside hitter Jenny Rood both starting and Nikki Colson playing back line for redshirt-junior middle Maren Witzel, MSU played three freshmen on the court at the same time for extended periods.
Rood said the freshmen know they were targets and they made mistakes this weekend. She said they dont have the experience, but added every time they step on the court theyll improve.
The freshmen know how much we have to work to get better at everything, she said. Were just going to keep working our butts off in practice and help make this team better.
The injuries to Sanborn and Gustin have left setter Christie Landry the only senior on the floor. Landry said she doesnt feel any extra pressure, but added the upperclassmen need to help the freshmen.
At times everyone played great and at times we didnt, she said. I think it has a lot to do with the youth. That just comes with being on the floor more. We just have to encourage them.
Erbe said there is no team in the Big Ten that has more talent than the Spartans. He said MSU just has trouble sustaining high levels of play, and that cant continue.
The thing about a team sport is if you have one player out there whos not focused, it affects the other five. So its got to be a collective effort.
Erbe said MSU needs to have a good week of practice to prepare for road games against Indiana on Friday and No. 13 Penn State on Saturday.
Weve got to get ready to play them, because theyre going to be sitting there lickin their chops, just waiting, he said. Theyre going to see the scores this weekend. Theyll see we were up 2-0 and lost to a team like Iowa.