As most MSU students will be headed home for Thanksgiving Wednesday night, the MSU volleyball team still has one last order of business to take care of before the holiday weekend.
The Spartans will go head-to-head with No. 22 Michigan in Ann Arbor, where Michigan State hasn’t won since 2006. In the series, the Spartans are 13-17 when facing the Wolverines on the road.
“It’s been a split most of the time,” head coach Cathy George said. “Throw out records, throw out numbers, throw out everything, it’s always been a very competitive match.”
MSU also will be looking for its first season sweep of the Wolverines since 2006, and to retain ownership of the “State Pride” flag.
Annually, the two teams participate in the State Pride series, which awards a Michigan state flag to the team that wins both matches, or in case of a tie, the team that has won the most sets.
The Spartans (21-9 overall, 10-8 Big Ten) are riding a 3-game winning streak, including an upset of No. 7 Illinois. But the team has yet to receive any love in the AVCA rankings, going unranked once again, while the 19-11 Wolverines actually jumped up a spot after losing to Illinois.
However, freshman libero Kori Moster said the Spartans couldn’t spend time worrying about trivial things such as rankings, especially at this point in the season.
“It’s out of our control,” she said. “We have to focus on the things that we can control, and that’s how we play, and getting wins.”
Getting wins wouldn’t just increase MSU’s rankings, either. Having essentially clinched a tournament berth already, if MSU wins out, there is a chance the Spartans could earn home court advantage come tournament time. If that becomes the case, MSU could host the regional semifinal round at Jenison Field House.
But first, the Spartans would have to go through Michigan and No. 12 Penn State. There’s no telling what the NCAA selection show will bring on Sunday, but right now, the Spartans are focused on Michigan, and finishing their season on a high note.
“I think (tournament play) has a lot to do with confidence,” freshman middle blocker Jazmine White said. “Confidence helps when we’re starting to get down a few points, or we begin to lose a lead. Having confidence will help us get back to where we need to be.”
MSU should have plenty of confidence as it prepares for its in-state rivals. The Spartans already beat the Wolverines 3-1 at home in October, and would just need to win two sets on Wednesday to take home the State Pride flag.
Although the flames of a rivalry between Michigan State and U-M don’t really need any more fanning, George said the State Pride series adds an extra incentive to an already intense matchup.
“(Keeping) the state flag is important,” she said. “We work hard, and our girls have played against theirs for years, since they were kids. It just makes for a very competitive setting, and just brings out the best in everybody.”
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