The MSU volleyball team spent the past week preparing for life without senior middle hitter and co-captain Jessica Sanborn and this weekends home stand will unveil the results.
The Spartans face No. 7 Minnesota (18-1, 7-1 Big Ten) tonight at 8 p.m. and Iowa (8-8, 4-4) Saturday.
After Sanborn fractured the fifth metatarsal in her left foot last Saturday, her return to the team is in question.
I really dont know, Sanborn said, referring to when shell return. I could be out four to eight weeks.
Sanborn said the injury will prevent her from helping the team on the court, but it cant stop her from providing moral support.
Ill still be on the bench cheering for the team, she said. Its really frustrating. Theres really not a lot I can do.
Sanborns absence weakens the Spartans middle, leaving the team with just two middle hitters - sophomore Angela Morley and junior Maren Witzel.
MSU head coach Chuck Erbe said questions about Witzels composure were answered against Northwestern. He said MSU needs to adjust to what Witzel brings to the team.
I was very pleased watching the tapes of how she played Saturday night, he said. She made the plays that shes supposed to make. I thought that she really stepped up and did a really nice job.
Her serving was a real plus. We scored a lot of points when she served. Shes a better server than Sanborn.
Erbe said freshman outside hitter Jenny Rood, who played middle hitter in high school, may get playing time in the middle to provide depth.
Morley said the team will be different without Sanborn. She said it will take a team effort to compensate for the loss.
Its just going to be a different team on the court, she said. Individually, were each going to have to step it up and hold each other accountable.
Erbe said skill isnt a question at the collegiate level. He said how teams deal with pressure determines who wins and who loses.
Erbe said the match with Minnesota will be difficult, but added MSU can only worry about playing its game.
Its not an issue about what we do to prepare for the team on the other side of the net, he said. All we can do is control our attitude, our effort and our execution on our side of the net.
You dont ever want to lose any player. If you do lose somebody, other players have to step up. When youre in high-level sports its all about dealing with pressure. You either deal with it or you dont.
Erbe said he hopes to have Sanborn back for the NCAA Tournament, but that the Spartans main concern right now is making sure the team stays on track.
The gap between (Big Ten) teams is getting narrower and narrower, with the bottom half of the Big Ten getting stronger, he said. What that means is that you dont have any more easy matches. We just have to make certain that we beat the teams were supposed to beat.