After the MSU volleyball team had a , the team will look toward starting Big Ten conference play on Saturday. No. 20 Spartans will head into their matches with an 11-1 record and the prestige of being a ranked team for the second straight week.
Conference play for the Spartans figures to be tough, with eight Big Ten teams in the top-25 of the . A ninth team, the University of Illinois, also received votes, showcasing the Big Ten’s overall talent. The No. 1 University of Nebraska, one of MSU’s opponents this weekend, received all 64 first-place votes in the poll.
Head coach Cathy George, in her 11th year at the helm of the Spartans, understands the grind the Big Ten season can be. George, however has shown success against conference opponents in recent years. In the past five years, MSU has been one of only four other programs in their conference to have a winning record.
George said she doesn’t dwell on stats or wins to assess her team — instead, she said she prefers to look at a holistic approach of her team, wondering if she has effectively utilized her talent.
“The thing that you’re doing is you’re looking at your season and you’re trying to become the best you can be,” George said. “And so, are you maximizing your talent or not? The league is tough, we know that. But are your players growing, are they getting better?”
Through the years, George has developed her players, filling the starting lineup with . For senior Allyssah Fitterer, she understands the toughness of conference play.
“The Big Ten is like a bloodbath every night,” Fitterer said. “You go into every game just going all out. Any team can win in the Big Ten and we want to be one of those teams.”
While Fitterer explained the toughness of the Big Ten, she also knew what her team needed to produce to be successful within the conference. She said that making sure the team is prepared for every game will make a difference down the road.
“It’s really which team is tough enough to last those two months and really put their all out there every game,” Fitterer said. “It’s those matches that you’re either not expected to win or those losses that you’re not expected to lose that really define your season and really depend where you are in that ranking for the Big Ten.”
Throughout the season, the Spartans have also created their own motto, “Together as One.” Junior Alyssa Garvelink said it brings the team together.
“I love the saying, actually,” Garvelink said. “It unifies our team and I think our chemistry is really good this year. I think because we want the person to our left and our right to succeed, I think it just makes it exciting and easier to play with people that have the same goals as you.”
Fitterer had a slightly different mindset on the team’s saying. She said by taking one thing at a time, it shines a set mindset she thinks her team also follows.
“It’s not only ‘Together as One’ as a team for the season, but it’s also one game at a time,” Fitterer said. “We want to take one thing at a time. So even though we do have big goals to go as far as we’ve ever gone in the tournament and in the season, the number one goal for the entire season is to take one thing at a time, really focus on the process instead of the end goal.”
The Spartans will host the University of Iowa and No. 1 University of Nebraska this weekend at Jenison Field House. The match against the University of Iowa will be played 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 23. The next day, the Spartans will face off against the consensus No. 1 team in the country, the University of Nebraska at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24.