MSU volleyball will spend Thanksgiving weekend honoring its seniors during the final matches of the regular season.
The Spartans (16-11, 9-9 Big Ten) play Northwestern (4-22, 1-15 Big Ten) on Friday and No. 5 Wisconsin (24-3, 14-2) on Saturday.
MSU head coach Chuck Erbe called Northwestern a must win. He said a win over the Wildcats should assure the Spartans at least a share of fifth place in the conference and a NCAA Tournament selection.
Theyll take six or seven teams out of the Big Ten, he said. We beat Northwestern. Im pretty sure well be in.
On Oct. 14 MSU defeated Northwestern 3-1 in Evanston, Ill. That was the first match senior middle hitter Jessica Sanborn missed because of her broken foot.
Senior middle hitter Sarah Gustin said the Spartans know the importance of Fridays match. She said Friday is also family night and that will give the Spartans extra motivation.
Sarah said most of the players families will be in attendance. She said that includes families from as far away as Alaska, California and Washington state.
I dont think theres ever been a time when all of our west coast players families have been at one game, she said. I think its just going to be really exciting to have so many family members here. Obviously you always want to play well with family in the stands.
The Spartans will follow family night with senior night Saturday.
The Spartans have defeated Wisconsin the last two years at Jenison Field House.
However, the Badgers will play the role of spoiler Saturday, as they are currently tied for first in the Big Ten and need to win their last two matches to assure at least a tie.
Erbe said Wisconsin has two of the best players in the country -Sherisa Livingston and Jenny Maastricht. He said Wisconsin has survived every challenge this season and has proved to be the better team.
I think they have tremendous motivation, he said. Were the underdog and theyre favored. I dont think we have any advantages at all.
Gustin said the Spartans dont expect to win against Wisconsin, but added theyll give everything they have. She said playing the Badgers on senior night should send the energy level sky high.
We dont have anything to lose, she said. As long as we go out and play our best theres always a chance of coming away with the upset.
Freshman outside hitter Jenny Rood said even as a freshman she understands the significance of senior night.
Look at all the time and effort theyve put into it, she said. Theyve been here for four years busting their butts in practice. Ive been here for not even a full fall season. I want it for them more than anybody.
Rood said when the whole team comes together and plays the way they are capable of playing, good things will happen.
I think these girls can do whatever they set their minds to, she said.
Gustin said having family night and senior night is fun, but added the NCAA Tournament is the most important aspect of the weekend. She said the season didnt unfold the way the Spartans hoped it would, and the tournament would give them another chance to make a statement.
The battle is getting in, she said. Once were in the tournament its open and we have nothing to lose. Its there to take, and if you take it you keep going.