In eight years as head coach of MSU volleyball, Chuck Erbe has guided the team to six consecutive NCAA tournaments and has the Spartans on their way to their seventh.
The Spartans knew they made the tournament Saturday, but had to wait until Sunday night to know who and where they would play.
The team gathered at Damons, 1601 W. Lake Lansing Road, to watch the volleyball selection show in anticipation. One-by-one the regions filled to sighs of disappointment from the Spartans as Hawaii and Florida passed, and sighs of relief as Penn State and Wisconsin passed.
Then the final region was announced with MSU playing Wisconsin-Milwaukee (23-4) in the first round Saturday. UCLA (22-7) hosts the first and second rounds for the region. If the Spartans defeat UWM, theyll face the winner of UCLA vs. Morgan State on Sunday.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee plays in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference - not quite the same caliber as the Big Ten. The Big Ten, Big Twelve and Pacific-10 conferences each sent six teams to the NCAA Division I Womens Volleyball Championship, more than any other conference.
Joining MSU from the Big Ten are Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan.
MSU has never played a regular season or tournament match with UWM, but there is a connection. UWM head coach Kathy Litzau was an assistant coach at MSU during Erbes first season.
Theres a little bit of irony there, Erbe said. Theyre coached by Kathy Litzau, formerly Kathy Cunningham. My first assistant coach was Kathy Cunningham. Its kind of interesting now that were going to be playing each other in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Erbe said Litzau moved to Milwaukee when she got married because her husband was from the area. After scanning the Panthers Web site, he added UWM is not just happy to be in the tournament.
Theyre very hungry to play a Big Ten team, he said. They have said that theyre going there to win, not just participate.
Erbe said every team in the tournament exchanges videotape immediately. He said studying videotape is nothing new and MSU will have plenty of time to prepare.
Junior outside hitter Erin Hartley said UWM may not be a high-profile team, but MSU will treat it like any other team it plays.
Were going to treat it like any other match and take what the coaches give us, she said. I think, going into this match next weekend, well be prepared.
Senior middle hitter Sarah Gustin said the match will be different. She said four of the Spartans are from the West Coast, so its a trip home.
Im really excited, she said. My familys only an hour away so Ill have a lot of people there this year. Its great to go home and play.