Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Young Spartans head to Okla. for season-opening Sooner Invitational

Junior middleblocker, Vanessa King, spikes the ball past junior oustide hitter, Mischelle Nelson during Saturady’s green and white game at Jenison Fieldhouse.

The resounding theme of the offseason for the MSU volleyball team has been youth.

In the offseason, the team brought in the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation according to PrepVolleyball.com, a major collegiate volleyball recruiting site. Every one of those players will have to contribute to a squad with only three upperclassmen.

“They’ve had some strong moments and some not-so-strong moments,” head coach Cathy George said of the freshman class. “In some cases, they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s early in the season. There’s certain offenses we haven’t been presented with. We really don’t know what to expect with the teams we’re going to see, except for Cal Poly who returns so many.”

The Spartans open play Friday in Norman, Okla., against Oklahoma in the Sooner Legends Nike Invitational before playing Cal Poly that evening. Saturday, the Spartans play Wichita State.

Cal Poly, ranked 10th in a preseason poll by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, went to the Sweet 16 last season and return all of their key starters from that team.

“We’re going to have to pass and serve, and really Cal Poly serves bullets,” George said. “We’re just going to have to stay calm, relaxed, absorb the ball and take a little bit of the power off it and try to get good swings.”

Freshman libero Carli Weiler said she is excited to get into her first collegiate game.

“I’m just anxious to get on the court and start meeting new competition, especially out of state,” Weiler said. “(I’m looking to) get some good reps in with everything we do before conference (season) starts.”

To keep the team calm, George has preached that the beginning of the season isn’t the end of the world.

“I’ve had teams that have gone 3-0 in the first weekend and have had maybe an average season and I’ve had teams that have gone 0-3 in the first weekend and have come back and done great things,” she said. “Last year we opened at USC. We went 1-2 and we came out and we finished in the Sweet 16. So everything is not won or lost right now.”

Senior middle blocker/outside hitter Heather McDaniel said the key will be for the team to keep its composure.

“We know we need more experience, staying cool and levelheaded even if we’re down a few of points, not just giving up,” McDaniel said.

Staying composed will help counter the Spartans’ lack of experience, she said.

“We just have to remind ourselves we are a good team,” McDaniel said.

“Even though we are young, we have a lot of talent. Like I said before, (we need to) keep composure, even if we’re down a few points, we can still be in it, just reminding them of the talent we have.”

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