When the MSU volleyball team wrapped up its regular season last weekend, the Spartans also ended one of the best seasons in recent history, winning their first tournament game since 2007 and notching 22 wins, the most since 1998. The State News spoke with head coach Cathy George to talk about what the season meant for the program, and what fans can expect to see next year.
What does the success of this season say about your team?
Well, it’s more than wins. It also has a lot to do with the growth of people, and the way they came together and the way they fought obstacles.
How have the five departing seniors (Jenilee Rathje, Kyndra Abron, Becca Zlabis, Carli Weiler and Natalie Emro) grown as players?
Obviously, we play in a very tough league and those five seniors had to play different roles since they were freshmen. To look at it now, they definitely took their lumps because the Big Ten is so tough, but they grew through all the difficult times and experiences, and toughened up. And that senior class was determined to make something special happen this year. And I think the seniors took the freshmen under their wings this year, and they made sure they were part of the group that would make things change and make this team better this year.
How important is it that you had a group of seniors that were willing to help those younger players transition?
This group changed considerably. They left their footprint, and I know (men’s basketball coach) Tom Izzo says that all the time, ‘What footprint will you leave?’, and this senior class definitely has had an impact on this program for years to come. They’ve taken the freshmen this summer and made sure that they understood what we needed to do this year. And made them feel like a part of the group, not just freshmen who sit on the sidelines and cheer. They also made those freshmen understand what we expect from them on the court, academically and they didn’t have any kind of issues with that. The chemistry became very strong, and that is a big part of the footprint they left behind.
So what is next for your team?
Well as I said, the seniors left behind a very strong imprint for the future. We had a meeting in the locker room on Monday, and the returning players have already begun working out. And they know what it will take to be successful in a highly competitive league. I think our system is going to be a little different, we’re not going to have the same kind of style, but you’re going to have a team that understands how to work together for something that’s bigger than you.
So what can fans expect to see from the 2012 volleyball Spartans?
That’s always hard to predict, that’s a big question. But I expect them to work hard, I expect them to give us their best, I expect this team to put their teammates first and accomplish the mission. And that will take shape as we go through spring practices. We’ll develop a style that caters to the players we have and then develop that throughout the spring and come back in the fall ready to compete against the best that’s out there.
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