MSU is looking to bounce back after getting swept last weekend by No. 7 Minnesota as the Spartans prepare for matchups against Ohio State on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
The upcoming series with Ohio State is one of circumstance, as MSU was scheduled to play Michigan this week. Michigan could not play due to all of the athletics at the university being put on hold with a new variant of COVID-19 surfacing at the school. Ohio State was originally going to take on Penn State until PSU had to withdraw as well.
“We're just wanting to play matches,” MSU Head Coach Cathy George said. “Here we are sitting with 20 matches instead of 22 we would have had if Michigan had played.”
With the NCAA cutting down on teams in the tournament, this year only 48 teams will receive bids instead of 64, so every team wants as many opportunities to play as possible.
There’s no doubt the schedule shuffling is a new challenge, but instead of seeing it as an obstacle, MSU is using it as an opportunity for growth.
“We are just kind of going with the flow, and we preach that,” George said. “... That still is a characteristic of a highly successful person, is the ability to adapt, so that helps us grow as people in everything we do and as competitors.”
With a compressed, conference-only season it is going to be necessary not to miss games to try and build a post-season resume.
The Spartans understand the importance of the upcoming matchup with Ohio State, looking to get as many wins as possible in the Big Ten that features six teams ranked in the Top 25.
“It’s going to be a very important match for us to try and come away with some victories so that we can put ourselves in the mix,” George said. “... We’re going to have to put ourselves in the top five or six of the league in order to get into the NCAA Tournament.”
Even in a loss, the Spartans showed promising signs of what could be a very competitive team. The play of sophomore Cecilee Max-Brown, as well as the strong debuts of freshmen Sarah Franklin and Celia Cullen as bright spots in their losses to Minnesota.
“We have a lot of talent, and we have to figure out how to use it,” George said. “... If there’s a loss, it’s always a great growth opportunity, and you look forward to that because you can point out on film where maybe we didn’t do things as well as we could.”
The defense is a big point of emphasis in the upcoming matches for MSU. In the first matchup against Minnesota, the Spartans had one block and in the second they totaled six blocks to begin play, but then didn’t have any more for the rest of the match.
George said the team has to be more aggressive from a physical and mental standpoint going up against an Ohio State team that is very experienced and talented.
“It’s always a brawl,” George said. However, the Spartans seem more than prepared and ready to take on any opponent that comes their way.
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