After tough nonconference schedule, no regrouping time for volleyball as conference season approaches
Head coach Cathy George knew the first month of the season would be challenging for MSU volleyball (7-4 overall), Ewho played five teams that made the NCAA tournament last season in a 15-day span.
Unlike football, there’s no bye week for the volleyball team, which begins play in the toughest conference in the collegiate ranks on Friday against Indiana.
“It would be nice to have a regroup time,” George said during the team’s media day. “You never know when you need that.”
This would be a good time for the Spartans to regroup after losing junior setter Halle Peterson and freshman outside hitter Holly Toliver to injury and completing a brutal non-conference schedule.
As the old proverb goes, “Iron sharpens iron.”
MSU hopes scheduling a difficult non-conference schedule will prepare them for the Big Ten conference, which has six teams in the AVCA top 25.
“It keeps you really grinding,” George said. “I don’t want them to know what it means to kind of back down a little bit.”
Injuries to a couple of key contributors have given other players an opportunity to step up.
Freshman setter Rachel Minarick is the only setter left on the roster and has embraced the challenge. Minarick leads the Spartans with 318 assists and her .386 hitting percentage is good for third on the team.
Toliver’s injury has opened up playing time at the outside hitter position as well.
Sophomore outside hitter Chloe Reinig, who made the All-Tournament Team over the weekend, has done more than pick up the slack.
Reinig leads the team with 123 kills and 3.15 kills per set.
The Spartans will head into the Big Ten gauntlet with some momentum after winning two of three games in the 2014 Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational.
MSU defeated Western Kentucky (11-4) and UW-Milwaukee (5-8) in straight sets on back-to-back days.
WKU and UW-Milwaukee are no cupcakes either. UW-Milwaukee won 18 games last season and made it to the NCAA tournament. WKU defeated No. 11 Purdue 3-2 as part of the Holiday Inn University Plaza Invitational.
The most common words used around the team are “growth” and “process.”
If MSU wants to make the NCAA tournament for a fourth consecutive season, they will have to continue to grow during a topsy-turvy season.