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MSU volleyball ready for NCAA tournament run

December 5, 2013

It’s finally here.

At 5 p.m., the No. 20 MSU volleyball team (21-11 overall, 10-10 Big Ten) will take on Mid-American Conference champion Ohio in Lexington, KY. to kick off the team’s third consecutive at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The winner of Friday’s match will face either Duquesne or No. 17 Kentucky, who is hosting the regional round, on Saturday.

Senior setter Kristen Kelsay has witnessed the year-to-year progression since she joined the program — missing the tournament her freshman year, falling to Texas in the second round her sophomore year, and most recently, suffering a Sweet 16 exit at the hands of rival Michigan last season.

This is the last opportunity for her and the girls of her class to make a deep tourney run.

This time, the sights are on a championship berth.

“We want to leave the program better than we found it,” Kelsay said. ”Our goal is to have six more matches. That’s something that it’s hard because you want to focus on the big picture. But you have to win one game at a time. It’s do or die right now. It’s survive and advance.”

The Spartans, who have vocally declared Final Four aspirations this season, see the tournament as a new start after regressing towards the end of the regular season.

The 4-10 slump at the end of the season soured what was a historic 17-1 season start to the season.

The at-large bid could have been automatic had the momentum continued.

With that in mind, the Spartans have a chip on their shoulder.

Swallowing that disappointment, the team has moved on. They’ve proven what their capabilities are. The task now is play up to potential.

“You always think about that at the end of the year,” said junior libero Kori Moster. “You could be hosting right now. I think at this point, none of that matters. That’s the cool thing about the postseason is that that’s kind of all washed out now. Everyone has a clean slate.”

Despite being a MAC team, Ohio plays physical, Big Ten-style volleyball.

It’ll be familiar for head coach Cathy George and senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski, who have MAC ties. The rest of the team will depend on tape of the MAC Tournament match to get a feel for their opponent.

“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.”

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