The volleyball team will travel to Lexington, Ky., to take on Mid-American Conference champion Ohio on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Playing a smaller conference team certainly presents a challenge, as the Spartans are less familiar with an MAC opponent than a team such as Oregon, who hails from a highly-visible Pac-12 conference.
However, that is not to say the Spartans are at a disadvantage. The MAC isn’t unfamiliar territory to head coach Cathy George, who coached the Western Michigan Broncos for 11 years prior to joining the MSU coaching staff.
George, who guided the Broncos to a MAC championship in 2000, said the conference employs a tough, physical style of volleyball that is comparable to the Big Ten. Ohio is perhaps one of the hardest-hitting MAC teams, meaning the Spartans will face a squad that isn’t significantly different from what the team is accustomed to.
“Ohio is a team in the MAC that is more physical than most of the teams in the MAC,” George said. “So they’re more likely to look like a Big Ten school. They have some size. They have athleticism. They’re just a real feisty team. (They) play hard (and) play great defense.”
The Spartans also have the benefit of having senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski on the roster. Before transferring to MSU after her sophomore year, Wicinski played for Northern Illinois in the MAC.
“They’re gonna come in here and they’re not gonna back down on us,” Wicinski said. “They’re gonna come here and be aggressive, and we know that. (Coach George) came from the MAC, too, so we know that we’re going to have to go in there and be aggressive.”
Junior libero Kori Moster, who hails from Cincinnati, welcomes the opportunity to play a team from her home state. She looks forward to what the weekend will entail, as host Kentucky and Atlantic-10 champ Duquesne await the winner of Friday’s game, which takes place at 5 p.m.
“We’re looking for the long run in this postseason,” Moster said. “Ohio is a great team to start off with and Kentucky is a great team to hold out. Definitely, it’s an opportunity to play some great teams in this country and see what we can do in this country.”
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