After losing a group of key seniors, Michigan State volleyball will heavily rely on junior defensive specialist Samantha McLean this season, who had her 2017 season unexpectedly cut short.
In November on Michigan State’s campus, a pick-up truck crashed into two mopeds, injuring Mairi Fletcher - a then-freshman on the field hockey team - and McLean, sending both to the hospital to be treated.
“I knew I had a concussion at first and I had a pretty bad puncture wound in my elbow,” McLean said. “Then I got an MRI a couple weeks later and I had a partially torn UCL in my elbow.”
McLean’s injuries ended her season amidst the team’s Big Ten title contention. Sitting out proved to be an adjustment for McLean.
“I’ve never been out for an injury before for that long, and it was really tough,” McLean said. “But you can learn a lot as a player sitting and watching out way more than you ever thought you could.”
Fletcher was listed in critical condition at the time of the incident and is said to have suffered more severe injuries than McLean. She has yet to rejoin the Spartans’ field hockey team.
McLean missed the team’s final seven games of the season leading into the NCAA Tournament and the teams’ first Elite Eight run since 1996.
After a several-month long rehab process, McLean is now healthy and back with the team, seeing action on the court in each of MSU’s first six games of the 2018 season.
“I’m not limited in any way by the accident or injury,” McLean said. “I pretty much feel 100 percent.”
After the NCAA Tournament and several months after the crash, McLean has proven to be an inspiration for George and the rest of the team going forward in the 2018 season.
“She was tremendous in the way she came back and worked and wanted to be with the team,” George said. “I think the team drew a lot of inspiration from Sam.”
George said McLean has remained positive throughout the whole process and is continuing to better herself as a player.
“It’s the same old Sam,” George said. “I think she’s just really trying to capitalize and be the best player she can be.”
With six games now under their belt, Michigan State volleyball is back in full swing. Coach Cathy George is looking to follow up the team’s Elite Eight run in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The Spartans kicked off their season at the Tennessee Classic from Aug. 24-25, recording wins over Chattanooga and Belmont University.
The young season is still a blank canvas for the Spartans, but McLean is ready to help lead the team in games and during practice.
“Every game and practice is a learning process for us,” McLean said. “We’re really just continuing to focus on the process.”
The team continued its impressive start to the season by sweeping the Carolina Classic from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, racking up wins against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, UNC Greensboro and the University of North Carolina.
With just one senior on the Spartans’ roster, they will need a boost from their younger players to maintain this type of dominance all season.
“Our goal is to get better every single day and hopefully be at the top at the end,” McLean said.
Though this year’s team doesn’t quite have the lofty expectations last year’s squad had, McLean is eager to keep making progress.