Sunday, April 21, 2024

Last 4 matches will be vital for Spartans' postseason chances

November 20, 2002
Senior middle Angela Morley (2) spikes the ball over a Michigan player Oct. 9 during a game at Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor. With a record of 16-10 the team is hoping for wins in its next four games to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. —

To receive consideration for the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans arguably need to win three of their next four contests.

And for the MSU volleyball team, making it to the postseason for the ninth consecutive year won't be the easiest of tasks if this season has been a guide.

MSU (16-10 overall, 8-8 Big Ten) sits in a tie for seventh place in the conference with Indiana. Three other teams - Ohio State, Michigan and Northwestern -are one game ahead and tied for fourth in the Big Ten.

"There's just not a very big spread and so everybody's so close," MSU head coach Chuck Erbe said. "That means every match is a very important match, and you can't look past one opponent.

"We have four matches remaining and we have to play well in all four."

MSU's remaining opponents are Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern and No. 14 Wisconsin. Luckily for the Spartans, they've posted a 3-1 mark against those teams.

The Fighting Illini (11-14, 5-11) nearly picked up a victory over the Spartans in Jenison Field House earlier this season, but MSU eked out the five-game win. The Boilermakers (11-18, 1-15) are the Big Ten's cellar team, and although their only Big Ten win was against Iowa, the Big Ten's 10th place squad, Erbe expects them to come out fighting.

"Illinois would certainly like to finish the season feeling good about themselves," Erbe said. "And Purdue is in the exact same situation."

To make the weekend even tougher for the Spartans, they have to travel to Champaign, Ill., and West Lafayette, Ind.

Northwestern (16-12, 9-7) and Wisconsin (20-7, 11-5) provide stiffer competition, but have to play in front of a rowdy Jenison crowd. The Spartans fell to the Badgers in four games, but came out fighting the next night where they picked up a four-game win over the Wildcats.

Erbe said he feels if his teams picks up a minimum three wins, the committee should undoubtedly find a spot for them in the field of 64.

MSU has knocked off three ranked teams this season. The Spartans beat then-No. 24 Kansas State on Sept. 14, won a five-game thriller over then-No. 16 Ohio State on Oct. 4, and squeaked out another five-game win over then-No. 11 Penn State on Nov. 1.

A pair of other teams moved into the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll after MSU played them earlier this season. Most notably South Carolina, which MSU defeated in a four-game thriller in the season's first week, is sitting in the 18th spot with a 21-5 mark.

Injury update

The last thing the Spartans wished for was another injury, but Erbe said he found out Monday that senior outside hitter Kyla Smith has a bone chip in her left elbow.

"That's the first time that's ever happened in her career," he said. "Now we're trying to figure out if that bone chip will move to free up her elbow so we can see what range of motion she can have."

More votes?

After picking up a split this weekend with a win over Iowa and a loss to No. 6 Minnesota, the Spartans still gained votes in the polls.

MSU had been the last team receiving votes a week ago with four, but now the Spartans are picking up eight tallies.

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