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Volleyball riding wave of momentum heading into Big Ten season

September 19, 2012
Junior middleblocker Alexis Mathews at the game on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 at Jenison Field House. MSU defeated IPFW, 3-2. Justin Wan/The State News
Junior middleblocker Alexis Mathews at the game on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 at Jenison Field House. MSU defeated IPFW, 3-2. Justin Wan/The State News —
Photo by Justin Wan | and Justin Wan The State News

If it seems like the MSU volleyball team wins another tournament every weekend, it’s probably because that’s exactly what they’ve done.

After sweeping the Holiday Inn Charleston/Mt. Pleasant Tournament in Charleston, S.C., last weekend, the Spartans, now are 12-0, which ties them for the third-best start in MSU history. They’re also 36-4 in individual sets, winning nine of their first 12 matches in straight sets.

But that all gets thrown out now, as the Spartans get set to open their Big Ten season by hosting Purdue and Indiana this weekend. Everyone in the conference starts on a level playing field, regardless of their early season success.

Junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski said MSU is set to take on all opponents.

“We’re ready for anything that comes at us,” Wicinski said. “We come in every day, we get prepared and we’re ready for it.”

The Spartans appeared in the American Volleyball Coaches Association, or AVCA, top 25 this week for the first time this season, but that doesn’t mean much in the Big Ten. Seven other teams in the conference currently are ranked ahead of MSU, and Michigan was ranked as well prior to this week.

Wicinski said it’s the quality of the other teams in the conference that she’s looking forward to.

“I’m really excited,” Wicinski said. “The competition is going to be good day in and day out. This is going to be so consistent, which is fun. That’s when you get pumped up. Every game you bring your best.”

Junior middle blocker Alexis Mathews said she likes playing against the rest of the Big Ten because of the familiarity of it.

“You already know what you’re going to get,” Mathews said. “I’ve seen a lot of these teams before, and we know what they like to do. They’re easier to scout.”

Mathews added that she sees MSU as being on the same level as the other teams in the Big Ten, if not above them.

“I think we can take all of those teams, really,” she said.

Head coach Cathy George said the Spartans will have to adjust to the improvement in competition to succeed.

“I think that so many of the teams in the Big Ten are strong,” George said. “Whether you’re playing the first (place) team or the last (place) team, you’re going to have to come to play volleyball and bring your A game because the weakest team in the (Big Ten) is still one of the strongest in the country. We know that you can’t overlook an opponent and you can’t back down.”

The team isn’t backing down from the challenge so far.

“I think a lot of people underestimate us,” Wicinski said. “(But) we know what we have. Other people might not, but we know we can work together and we have chemistry. We want to win the whole thing. That’s the number-one goal. You want to win your conference and you want to win a national championship.”

George said that although the team’s stated goals sound grandiose, they don’t see them that way.

“(Those goals) sound very big, but I know that we’re not looking at it in terms of that big goal,” she said. “We’re looking at each weekend, putting ourselves in position to do so. We’re keeping it all in perspective, one step at a time, and doing the best that we can, every single night.”

MSU will play Purdue at 7 p.m. on Friday at Jenison Field House.

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