Long road trips can be difficult and overbearing, but as the No. 20 MSU volleyball team stares down a monthlong stretch of games away from Jenison Field House, head coach Cathy George is optimistic her team will develop a good road routine in time for the tough Big Ten Conference schedule ahead.
“(The opponents) have the crowd support and all the people backing them there, but it’s about keeping focused on what we can do on our side of the net,” George said. “You try to gain a road routine that your team can become comfortable with and carry it through the entire year.”
Beginning Friday when the Spartans travel to Cleveland for games against Syracuse and Cleveland State, the team will play its next 11 games away from East Lansing. MSU plays its next home game Oct. 2 when Illinois visits Jenison Field House. During the road stretch, the Spartans will make trips to five different venues, playing nine nonconference opponents and their first two Big Ten foes of the season.
After a successful opening weekend in which the Spartans battled past quality competition from around the country to win the MSU Showcase, the next few road series should toughen them up for Big Ten play.
“Playing on the road is a lot different than playing at home, so I think we’re just going to make sure we stay focused and continue to play at the level that we did,” said sophomore Kyndra Abron, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after recording a .526 hitting percentage on the weekend.
The Spartans came from behind twice last weekend and showed an ability to win in a number of different ways. Their upset over No. 12 USC and solid play against Albany and North Carolina earned them a spot in this week’s Top 25.
However, with four Big Ten teams ranked ahead of MSU and several more promising to be competitive, the Spartans are looking to improve any way they can to get ready for the first Big Ten matchup, Sept. 25 at Purdue.
“We’ve seen high-level volleyball. This will now give us an ability to see where we stand, where we match up right now, what we can improve upon, and then to improve all of that prior to getting started in the Big Ten season,” George said.
The Spartans will take the floor against Syracuse at 1 p.m. Friday, then play Cleveland State at 7 p.m. the same day. The Spartans face Cleveland State again Saturday at 4 p.m. to finish up play for the weekend.
Syracuse has begun the season with a 4-0 record after playing four games in a five-day stretch to start the year.
Cleveland State is also undefeated, at 5-0.The Spartans hope to be up for the challenge after weathering the trip down to Cleveland.
“It’s especially difficult for the freshmen who just started classes and are getting away from the groove of things,” senior outside hitter Mischelle Nelson said.
“The thing about this tournament is that it’s still early, so we won’t have the teams scouted as we will later in the year. We’re going in and learning as we go.”
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