Saturday, December 4, 2021

Spikers optimistic to face No. 7 Badgers

October 13, 2000
The MSU women’s volleyball team competes with Indiana in a recent match at Jenison Field House. The Spartans will be on the road this weekend, playing Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., and Wisconsin in Madison, Wis. —

MSU women’s volleyball takes to the road this weekend for Big Ten matches against Wisconsin and Northwestern.

The No. 7 Badgers (15-2, 5-1 Big Ten) will be the seventh top 25 team the Spartans have played this season.

MSU head coach Chuck Erbe said the Spartans are still recovering from the loss to No. 12 Penn State Oct. 6. He said MSU has to rebound right away for a tough Wisconsin team.

“It’s going to be a challenging match for us right now, but I also feel it’s one we can win,” Erbe said. “It’s just going to depend on which team shows up on Friday night.”

Erbe said the Spartans have flashed the level of talent needed to play against the nation’s best. He said the only problem is they haven’t shown the ability to play at that level every night.

“They take days off,” he said. “If you’re afraid of failure, you fail. That’s all there is to it. I don’t know what there is to be said that hasn’t already been said. You just keep hoping that something is going to click in.”

Erbe said the Badgers have the talent to sweep MSU if the Spartans don’t give their best effort. He said Wisconsin has two of the best players in the conference in junior middle hitter Sherisa Livingston and senior outside hitter Jenny Maastricht. The Badgers have the physical size to cancel the matchup problems that MSU usually enjoys, he added.

“We’re going to be facing several of the premiere players in the Big Ten on Wisconsin,” Erbe said. “They’re a very physical team. Probably one of the few teams in the Big Ten that will match us in physical size.”

Senior outside hitter Sarah Gustin said Wisconsin has good fans, which will make it important for MSU to start strong.

“They’re going to be a really tough team to play against,” she said. “We haven’t played at Wisconsin very well, at least not while I’ve been here.”

The Spartans haven’t won in Madison since 1996, which means none of the current Spartans have ever won at Wisconsin.

After Wisconsin, the Spartans travel to Evanston, Ill., to play Northwestern (4-12, 1-5 Big Ten) on Saturday night. Erbe said Northwestern’s record makes it easy to overlook the match. The Wildcats have already proven you can’t do that in the Big Ten, he said.

“That one win stands out in my mind,” Erbe said. “It was a five-game win over Penn State, who we just lost to. That tells me Northwestern can be very dangerous on their home court.”

Erbe said MSU is still in the hunt for the Big Ten Championship, but the Spartans will need to beat a team ranked ahead of them, he added.

“We’re not out of it by any extent of the imagination,” he said. “We just have to take charge. We can’t expect anyone to do it for us.”

Redshirt sophomore middle hitter Angela Morley said the Spartans realize the position they’ve put themselves in and the team looks at the Wisconsin match as a “must- win.”

“Every game we play in the Big Ten is a big game, from the first to the last,” she said. “This one is especially big because they’re ranked higher than us.”

Morley said the team knows it has to be more consistent to compete for the Big Ten championship. She said how the team members play in matches is directly related to how they practice.

“We had a meeting before practice (Monday) to get things going for the week,” she said. “Coach sat us down and we reiterated our goals for the season. We’ve talked before. It’s just something to get us remotivated.”

Erbe used the team’s promotional poster, which reads “It’s time” to sum up where the Spartans stand in the Big Ten.

“There is no more time,” he said. “This is the final hurrah. It’s not about excuses. Bottom line, that’s what competitive athletics is.”

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