When the MSU volleyball team trots onto the court before a game, they come out of the locker room wearing the same colored jerseys — except for one player. The libero, the Spartan with different responsibilities, comes out in a different jersey from the rest of her team.
For the Spartans, the libero thus far this season has been junior Abby Monson, from Lakeville, Minn. standing at 5-foot-5.
Before any game, though, Monson said she has her own pregame rituals she likes to fulfill. Along with her regular routines, the song “We Own It” by 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa is on loop as she gets ready for her next match.
Monson’s primary role on the court is to get digs after her opponent gets the ball over the net and onto MSU's side. While she’s had some success in 2016 — averaging 8.8 digs per match — Monson said she’s just feeling out the position of being the libero.
“It’s not a set in stone thing yet," Monson said. "I've just got to go out there every day and give it my all, give everything to the team, and hopefully I have what they need for me to be the libero."
While Monson’s been adapting and learning the position, her teammate, Rachel Minarick, understands the role Monson plays for the Spartans.
Minarick, a fellow junior, is the setter for the Spartans, meaning she gets second contact off the digs Monson retrieves. Being in this role and on the court with Monson often, she said that she brings a valuable trait to the Spartans — communication.
“I think Abby’s a great libero because she communicates really, really well,” Minarick said. “She has a lot of fire, which I think our team needs. Sometimes we get a little too relaxed. She’s very sassy and fiery and that really helps us.”
With the Spartans being an experienced team, Minarick has also seen a shift in Monson's mindset. The transition from a sophomore to a junior has lifted a weight off of Monson’s shoulders, Minarick said.
“When you’re younger, you’re looking at older players and trying to compete with them,” Minarick said. “(Monson) is just thinking 'I can control what I can control and I’m going to be the best player that I can be.' I think that’s been a big step for her and her maturity level.”
Under a different set of watchful eyes, head coach Cathy George had similar thoughts about Monson’s play and how she affects her teammates.
“(Monson) has a lot of personality and she’s competitive,” George said. “She puts a lot of time into understanding what other teams are up to and helping the team understand what’s up with each team that we play.”
Even during a point, when Monson is setting up for a dig, she said she understands that sticking to MSU’s game plan is important.
“In my mindset, for Florida, we had certain game plans for each hitter,” Monson said. “I think that’s running through my head … I've got be stopped on defense and be ready to make this move to get to this ball."
Throughout the past few years, George has had the opportunity to watch Monson grow, both as a player and a person. She said the growth in Monson’s personality has proved dividends for the team and for Monson herself.
“Abby has learned to control her emotions more, just to stay within herself,” George said. “When she plays within herself she’s very talented and focused … she tries to do too much sometimes, and that’s when she gets out of her game.”
While Monson did admit her dreams of becoming an All-American, her goals for the year are team-oriented ones, as the Spartans are about halfway through their non-conference schedule.
“I want to help this team accomplish our goal,” Monson said. “Which is to win a Big Ten title and to possibly make it to the NCAA Tournament and make it far … I know we’re good enough to be there and I just want to help us complete that."
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