In the back end of a four-match away streak, the MSU volleyball team spent the week preparing for rematches against Wisconsin and No. 6 Illinois.
“We watch video, and we’re evaluating ourselves and where some of the plays that if we were to take them back, what would we do?” head coach Cathy George said. “We’re focusing on the stronger points … of both sides of the ball.
“We’re trying to really look at ourselves and identify opportunities that we have to be successful.”
While the Spartans (11-10 overall, 3-7 Big Ten) are reviewing their past matches against both teams, George said she anticipates their opponents will be doing the same thing in preparation.
Earlier this season, MSU lost to Illinois (17-3, 9-1) on Oct. 8 and then pulled out a win against Wisconsin (13-8, 2-8) the following day. Both matches had 3-2 scores.
“We will know them, and they will know us extremely well, so now it’s a matter of getting out there and executing,” George said.
This week, Wisconsin outside hitter Allison Wack was named Big Ten Player of the Week, and the Spartans said they expect her to be a major threat on the attack.
“She’s starting to really fire up and taking on some of that leadership for her team,” George said. “So looking at what they’ve done and how they’ve evolved since we’ve last seen them, they’re playing better volleyball right now.”
Despite the Fighting Illini losing All-American Laura DeBruler to an anterior cruciate ligament tear, after putting away 17 kills against the Spartans, senior outside hitter Megan Schatzle said she still expects the same level of play from Illinois.
“They haven’t lost a game since losing her, so they’re still the same team and still a really good team,” she said. “Obviously, we went to five with them, and it shows that we can beat anybody in the Big Ten.”
MSU said much of its practice this week has been driven by adjusting some of the smaller but key elements on offense and defense. Players said they’re looking to improve communication so the first and second contact on the ball can lead to a kill from the third.
“That’s the main thing that we’ve been focusing on this week,” junior setter Natalie Emro said. “I think just from being forced to do the drills, that’s made us already become a better team, and our communication and trust is already better.”
The Spartans’ goal this weekend is to finish both games in four sets or less, regardless of how Wisconsin and Illinois run their attacks.
“It’s just identification of what a team is doing, what kind of adjustments did they make during the match, and then being able to counter that as well,” George said.
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