Whether it’s college or professional athletics, road trips rarely are fun for teams at any level. That’s why the phrase “home field advantage” exists and why it’s considered a big deal in the NBA, the NFL or MLB for a team to earn the right to play at home in the playoffs.
The MSU volleyball team heads to Charleston, S.C., this weekend to play in their final invitational prior to the start of Big Ten play. The Spartans already played on the road once this season in Storrs, Conn., but they’re hoping to use this weekend as a test run for what they’ll experience in conference play, head coach Cathy George said.
“In the Big Ten, the crowds get nasty, they get tough, they get very boisterous,” George said. “So you learn to adapt to that. You’re looking to either create your own energy or deal with loud environments.”
Leaving East Lansing requires the Spartans to adjust their routines, something most players don’t like, said junior setter Kristen Kelsay.
“You have your pregame habits. You sleep in your own bed. Going on the road, you have to maintain a whole different level of focus,” she said.
Sophomore libero Kori Moster said that the three-game invitational weekends are tough because they’re different from what the team will face the rest of the year.
“I think the biggest thing (about going on the road this weekend) is having three games in two days,” Moster said. “The preparation is different because you have to play one night and then get a good night’s rest and be ready to go (play) instead of having the morning be your practice time.”
Instead of playing Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, weekends in the Big Ten will feature, at most, two games and eliminate the early Saturday game.
“(You need) the ability to maintain that focus when you’re sleeping in a different bed or playing in a different gym every night,” she said.
The key, according to George, is learning to ignore the crowd regardless of the situation.
“You can minimize the impact (of the crowd) with how resilient your team becomes, and you get yourself up,” George said. “You don’t wait for somebody else to set your tone; you set the tone.”
Moster said going on the road means not worrying about your opponent and making sure you do what you need to do.
“You have to have a lot of focus on your own style of play rather than what your opponent is going to do,” Moster said.
George said she likes being on the road.
“I personally enjoy being on the road sometimes because there are fewer distractions,” George said. “You’re there to play volleyball. You’re honing in on what’s important.”
MSU will take on Presbyterian at 4:30 p.m. on Friday., followed by Georgetown and host College of Charleston on Saturday.
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