The No. 21-ranked MSU volleyball team was back in action during the weekend at Jenison Field House, hosting two conference opponents — then No. 14 Ohio State University and the University of Maryland, marking their third week of Big Ten play this season.
Since Big Ten play began, MSU has played ranked opponents every week, and with nine Big Ten teams in the American Volleyball Coaches Association, AVCA, top-25 poll, MSU is often tasked with a tough opponent.
Senior Allyssah Fitterer said she, and the rest of the Spartans, enjoy the grind of the conference season.
“We’re playing someone that’s ranked in the top-25 almost every single night,” Fitterer said. “Which, honestly, is the most exciting thing. You can’t ask for a better conference to be in.”
Head coach Cathy George is in her 12th season at the head of the program and has had success against her peers along the way. MSU has been one of only four teams in the Big Ten to have a .500 record or better in conference play the past five years.
George said after the match against Ohio State that playing Big Ten competition is challenging, but she also said the prospect of going against some of the best in the country keeps her team motivated.
“It’s exciting to play every weekend (in conference play),” George said. “You just have to kind of grind that out but you’re looking forward to the next opponent.”
One obstacle during the Big Ten season is playing games on back-to-back days. The players have to prepare for multiple scouting reports at a time with a short turnaround to keep in mind.
Redshirt-junior Autumn Bailey said playing in the Big Ten has been full of adjustments. That shift reaches off the court with the scouting reports, and Bailey said it’s a definite change of pace from when she played at Marquette University, before transferring to MSU.
“At my old school, there were maybe one or two players you would have to focus on,” Bailey said. “On a team like Ohio State or really anybody in the Big Ten, almost every person they have hitting is an offensive threat so you have to focus on everyone. So that’s definitely different.”
A big factor in Bailey choosing to come to MSU was the Big Ten and the competition she’d be facing. She said so far, it’s lived up to her expectations.
“It’s definitely a grind (playing in the Big Ten),” Bailey said. “But I think that’s so much fun, it’s kind of what I wanted to do. Competitive volleyball is the best kind of volleyball so that’s been fun for me. It’s taught me a lot, I’ve had to learn a lot of new shots.”
MSU owns a 4-2 record six games into the season after their latest sweep. Of the two losses, it was to a then-No. 1 University of Nebraska in and No. 15 Penn State University at Jenison.
After a successful weekend coupled with a win over a ranked Buckeye team, senior team captain Chloe Reinig said the Spartans will use their current success to continue their current winning streak, and that MSU’s mentality is different than its been in recent years.
“In other years we’ve kind of set big goals and got blindsided a few times throughout the season and lost sight of that,” Reinig said. “But right now, we’re just trying to take it one game at a time. Trying to get better every single week, getting ready for the team we’re about to play. I think that’s paying off, we’re not thinking too far forward and we’re just playing in the moment.”
The MSU volleyball team will be in action again Oct. 12, against another ranked opponent, No. 24 University of Illinois, in Champaign, Ill. Afterwards, they’ll be back home at Jenison Field House hosting No. 1 University of Minnesota at 8 p.m., Oct. 15.