The MSU volleyball team will get their 2015 season underway when the Spartans take on 15th ranked Kentucky on Friday, Aug. 28, followed by Arkansas-Little Rock and IUPUI on Aug. 29 at the Bluegrass Invite in Lexington, Ky.
The Spartans’ 2014 season was ended in the round of 32 by Stanford, the No. 1 overall seed. The team will step onto the Memorial Coliseum court Friday ranked 19th and are one of six teams in the Big Ten to breach the nation’s top 20.
“Everyone is so good this year and there is not a lot of difference between one team and the next,” senior setter Halle Peterson said.
The nationally ranked Big Ten teams are led by reigning national champion Penn State at No. 1, Nebraska and Wisconsin tied for fifth, Illinois eighth and Ohio State at 14th followed by the aforementioned Spartans.
“We know the Big Ten is always going to be ranked very high and so the strength of schedule is there already. What we did is really look to schedule the pre-conference in a similar manner,” MSU head volleyball coach Cathy George said.
The Spartans graduated four letterwinners in 2014 and Peterson said the team had to defensively make-up for losing former libero Kori Moster.
George, though, said the team has become better defensively than this past season.
“People who are playing the back row, they had to step up, they had to cover more ground to make up for Kori,” Peterson said. “And it’s not like one person is fulfilling her role but everybody had to turn it up a notch to make up for what we lost with her.”
Among the players fulfilling roles is junior-transfer Autumn Bailey. The outside hitter was the 2014 Big East player of the year at Marquette before moving to East Lansing. Bailey was a top performer in the team’s Green and White game, posting a double-double with 20 kills, 11 digs and three blocks.
“It was a really easy transition. All the girls are super nice, I don’t know, it was just pretty smooth,” Bailey said. “We are hoping to win a national championship, that is our goal. And individually, I just want to kind of raise up and be a dominant player, be noticed in the Big Ten and help my team to achieve our goals.”
George also agrees that everything is coming together right now for MSU.
“The team is just, they’re just together right now. The culture, the practice culture, the demands on each other, the way they’re going after it is different than it was a year ago,” George said. “A year ago we were young, we were young as a whole. We’ve just matured and we are so driven toward something we understand.”
Freshman defensive specialist Sarah Washegesic, said, “hopefully this year we make it to the final four and not have that 1995 team be the only team. We want to add to that banner and make it to the final four and win nationals.”
The Spartans come home to Jenison Field House for the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational on Sept. 4. Notable away matches include at seventh ranked North Carolina, at 25th ranked Duke and always-competitive conference trips to Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin.
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