For volleyball head coach Cathy George, the 2017 season has been an emotional one to say the least.
Earlier in the season, George became the all-time winningest coach in MSU volleyball history after a win against Northwestern. On Saturday night, the decorated coach celebrated a similarly victorious, yet slightly more somber occasion, senior night.
"A lot of memories go into the last four or five years of these players' lives and how much they've enriched me, this team and this program, and what they've meant to Michigan State," George said after the team swept Indiana in their last home game Saturday night. "It just kind of all comes down to one night where you are actually able to celebrate that."
Seven Spartans played in their final collegiate home games on Saturday including Autumn Bailey, Alyssa Garvelink, Brooke Kranda, Rachel Minarick, Abby Monson, Holly Tolliver and Megan Tompkins.
Thus far in this season alone, these seniors have combined to total: 918 digs, 133 serve aces, and 1,249 kills. Garvelink became just the 23rd player in MSU volleyball history to achieve 1,000 career kills in the win over Indiana.
"I don't know what their record is but it's pretty generous, it's a good four years," George said.
Their record thus far? 83 wins and 44 losses. That is pretty generous.
This senior class, under George, has played a vital role in helping to establish MSU as one of the elite programs in the country. But while the past success these seniors have had on MSU volleyball is evident, George praised the group's impact on the future of the program.
"They've passed on the baton. They have taught other people and they have continued to help build this program," George said.
While the seniors on the squad have undoubtedly had the biggest impact on the Spartans' success this season, the team's underclassmen have also contributed to the stellar play of the eighth ranked team in the country; particularly, freshman players: Jamye Cox and Meredith Norris. Norris has 27 kills on the season, more than any other freshman, and Cox has the second most digs on the entire team this year with 287.
George credits the younger players' progress to the guidance and mentorship of their senior teammates.
"I think they've been very welcoming," George said. "They pull them in and they help them, and they teach them, and they invest in them. I think that's important but it's also showing what we need to pass on what they've learned from other people ahead of them."
This team has been strong and consistent all season; remaining in the top 10 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association national poll for six consecutive weeks, and racking up impressive wins including against No.7 Minnesota and No.12 ranked Wisconsin. This is largely due in part to the play of the seniors, who have accounted for the majority of the squad's statistics.
While George acknowledged the long stretch of success this senior class has had over the last few years, she said she is hopeful that their best play is in front of them ahead of the upcoming NCAA Tournament; as this senior group has never made it past the second round of the big dance.
"The icing on the cake has yet to come so hopefully this team will push it through and that's what our intention is," George said. "They are very determined and driven to become the very best and go as far as they possible can, and hopefully that ends up in Kansas City."
As far as the lasting legacies of this senior class on MSU volleyball, George said she hopes they aren't set in stone just yet.
"I'm hoping to see that," said George. "I hope that's yet to come."
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