June 17, 2014
East Lansing, Michigan -- - Coming off its second consecutive NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, Michigan State volleyball has put together a challenging slate for the 2014 season. Head coach Cathy George announced the schedule on Tuesday, a slate which features 13 teams which made the NCAA tournament last season. Gametimes for MSU's 15 home games at Jenison Field House will be announced closer to the season, as will the television schedule.
"We're excited with what we have put together for 2014," said head coach Cathy George, who embarks on her 10th season on the Spartan sideline this fall. "The strength of our non-conference schedule will test us and prepare us for the Big Ten season, giving us the opportunity to immerse our new lineup right away against strong competition. The Big Ten showed last year that it's the best that collegiate volleyball has to offer, and we're proud to be a part of it. I'm really looking forward to getting our team on campus to start working."
MSU will play 11 non-conference games, highlighted by four games in conference challenge contests. MSU hosts Duke and North Carolina (both of which went 27-4 last year) in Big Ten-ACC Challenge games, then travels to the west coast to play Big Ten-Pac-12 Challenge games at Oregon and Oregon State. The Spartans will open the season at a tournament co-hosted by Alabama-Birmingham and Samford, and closes the pre-Big Ten portion of the schedule with the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational, which will bring 2014 NCAA qualifiers LIU-Brooklyn and UW-Milwaukee to Jenison Field House, along with Western Kentucky, which went 27-6 in 2013 but was upset in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament.
In all, eight of MSU's 11 non-conference opponents won 18 games or more in 2014, and combined for a 63.1% winning percentage. It will well-test a young Spartan squad as it prepares for Big Ten play, which promises once again to feature perhaps the best collegiate volleyball in the country. In 2013, the Big Ten sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament, had seven advance to the Sweet 16, and featured a showdown of Penn State and Wisconsin in the National Championship match.
The Big Ten schedule begins on Sept. 26, and a new scheduling format will be in play as the Conference adds two new members, Rutgers and Maryland. Each Big Ten team will have seven teams it plays twice (once each at home and on the road), three teams it will play just once at home, and three others it will play just once, on the road. The Spartan "one plays" include home dates against Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, while traveling for single road games at Maryland, Ohio State, and Penn State. MSU will take on Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue, and Rutgers both at home and on the road.
MSU opens the Big Ten slate with a series at Indiana and Purdue in the opening weekend (Sept. 26-27), then plays archrival Michigan twice in week two; the Spartans will play in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, Sept. 30, then host the Wolverines on Friday, Oct. 3 to kick off a three game homestand, which extends to the following weekend when MSU welcomes Nebraska and Iowa to Jenison Field House (Oct. 10-11). MSU gets its first look at new Conference members Maryland and Rutgers (Oct. 17-18) before wrapping the four-game road series at Ohio State and Penn State Oct. 24-25. Illinois has a Halloween-night engagement in East Lansing to kick off MSU's longest homestand of the season, with Northwestern (Nov. 1), Minnesota (Nov. 7) and Wisconsin (Nov. 8) filling out the four home games.
The following week, the Big Ten schedule begins its final three-week stretch with one midweek and one Saturday game for each team. MSU has two of its three midweek tilts on the road, starting with a game at Nebraska on Wed. Nov. 12, and will also play at Northwestern on Wed. Nov. 19. The tradeoff for the Spartans is Saturday home games against Indiana (Nov. 15), and Rutgers (Nov. 22), along with a Wednesday game against Purdue on Nov. 26. The Spartans will wrap the regular season with a game on Saturday, Nov. 29 at Iowa.
The NCAA Tournament begins the first weekend in December, with first and second-round sites to be determined. Four regional sites (TBA) will host games Dec. 12-13, with the National Championship weekend held in Oklahoma City Dec. 18-20.
MSU lost four players to graduation, but returns 11 letterwinners from the team which went 23-12 last year and advanced to the NCAA round of 16 for a second consecutive season. The Spartans return two-time All-America libero and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Kori Moster, and have secured the No. 6 recruiting class in the country, according to PrepVolleyball.com.