East Lansing, Mich. -- - Michigan State was picked 17th in the 2017 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) pre-season poll, which was announced on Wednesday afternoon. The Spartans are one of eight Big Ten teams selected.
The Spartans return four starters plus libero for the 2017 season, headlined by senior co-captains Alyssa Garvelink and Rachel Minarick. MSU boasts seven seniors who have all seen a considerable amount of court time throughout their careers, giving MSU a battle-tested veteran core along with a talented cast of newcomers.
"Pre-season recognition is a bit of looking into a mythical crystal ball, and a bit of recognition for what you have done in the past - but everyone knows that those numbers really don't mean much once you step on the court," said Cathy George, entering her 13th season on the Spartan sideline - the longest tenure of any volleyball coach in program history. "We feel good about the experience we bring back, but there's a very challenging Big Ten season ahead for all the teams in the Conference. We are focusing on our own preparation and foundation - practice by practice and game by game. There's a lot of enthusiasm and excitement, but we're focused on this being a day-to-day process."
MSU will hold its annual Green and White Exhibition on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 4 pm at Jenison Field House, with free admission. MSU opens its home schedule on Friday Sept. 1 when it opens the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational.
17 for 17
The top notes you need to know entering the 2017 season:
- Coming off a 25-9 (13-7) season in 2016, MSU finished the 2016 season at No. 19 in the final AVCA national poll. The Spartans are one of just three Big Ten programs to finish .500 or better in Big Ten play over the last six seasons – Penn State and Nebraska are the other two.
- The Big Ten again promises to be the pacesetter in Division I volleyball this season, despite losing the most 2016 All-Americans (9) to graduation of any conference in the country. The Big Ten returns 17 2016 All-Americans, six more than the Big 12 (11) and seven more than the Pac-12 and SEC (10 each).
- Head Coach Cathy George enters her 13th season at Michigan State and 31st overall with a 597-389 overall mark and is 232-163 while at MSU. She ranks 22nd among active coaches for total wins in NCAA Division I volleyball.
- George needs three wins to hit the 600-victory plateau, and 13 to become the all-time winningest coach in Spartan history. Chuck Erbe won 244 games in his 12-year tenure (1993-2004); George is 232-163 at MSU in 12 seasons.
- MSU’s next victory will be the 800th in program history. The Spartans are 799-692-18 (.536) in 43 seasons of varsity action.
- The Spartans co-captains are Alyssa Garvelink and Rachel Minarick. They were elected by team vote.
- Michigan State shattered single-game and a pair of single-season attendance records last season. MSU had a program best 6,838 fans for Jam Jenison on Nov. 12 vs. Michigan, and ranked sixth in the country in both total attendance (53,895) and average attendance (2,994), both program bests. Before the 2017 pre-season camp began, MSU had established a new program mark with more than 1,000 season tickets sold.
- The Spartans are coming off their 19th overall NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016, and earned their sixth consecutive first round victory in the tournament – the longest streak in school history.
- The Spartans return three AVCA All-America selections: Senior Alyssa Garvelink (Second Team, 2016), Redshirt senior Autumn Bailey (Honorable Mention, 2013, 2014, 2016), and Senior Rachel Minarick (Honorable Mention, 2014).
- The Spartans did a 10-day foreign tour of Italy and Slovenia May 25-June 3. Four of MSU’s incoming freshmen enrolled early and were able to participate in the trip, giving MSU both two weeks of practice in advance of the trip and some high-level competition to prepare for the 2017 season.
- Senior Holly Toliver participated in the USA Volleyball Collegiate National Team- Minneapolis, which is part of USA Volleyball’s High Performance pipeline and is considered a second tryout for the U.S. Women’s National Team ... As a part of Team Red, led her team in the final round-robin match with 12 kills on 19 swings without an error (.630), and in the final hit .430 with 15 kills, two blocks, and a pair of aces.
- Redshirt senior Brooke Kranda Was MSU’s representative on the Big Ten Volleyball Foreign Tour, competing in Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy and Austria. Averaged 2.0 kills and 0.52 blocks per set and hit .250 over the eight matches, leading the squad with 13 aces (0.57 per set) and averaging 0.91 digs per set. Last year, Kranda established a new school record with nine service aces in the match at Purdue (Oct. 29)
- Among MSU’s six freshmen are Corunna product and Michigan Miss Volleyball Meredith Norris and Oregon, Ohio native Jamye Cox, who both have extensive experience with USA Volleyball’s High Performance program and were first team Under Armour All-Americans as prep players. Norris (No. 25), Alyssa Chronowski (No. 30) and Cox (No. 40) are all among PrepVolleyball’s Senior Aces for 2017.
- The Spartan roster is 17 players strong. MSU returns four starters and its starting libero from a year ago, welcoming back 11 letterwinners (12 players) from 2016. MSU’s largest classes are the seniors (7) and freshmen (6). There are two each sophomores and juniors.
- The Spartan senior class was the No. 6 recruiting class in the country in 2014, consisting of Alyssa Garvelink, Rachel Minarick, Abby Monson, and Holly Toliver. The class grew as Brooke Kranda and Megan Tompkins, part of the No. 7-ranked class from 2013, redshirted their true freshman season, and again after transfer Autumn Bailey missed the 2015 season with injury and she was granted a medical hardship waiver.
- The Spartan players have siblings sprinkled throughout college volleyball. Maddie Haggerty’s younger sister, Molly, is a sophomore and 2016 All-America at Wisconsin, and her older sister Meghan was an All-America at Nebraska. Brooke Kranda’s sister, Stephanie, was a four-year letterwinner at Butler who graduated in 2014. Jamye Cox’s older sister Ryann plays at Bowling Green. Lauren Swartz’s oldest sister, Sarah, played four years at Allegheny College, while middle sister Erin is a senior at American University - and the sisters will face off this fall when their teams meet at the Active Ankle Challenge in Gainesville, Fla.
- MSU’s roster is plush with second-generation collegiate athletes. Deb Minarick was a volleyball player at Nebraska-Omaha, and MaryBeth Kranda played basketball at Notre Dame. Mary Midgette was a member of Saginaw Valley State’s NAIA National Championship softball team in 1989. Jamye Cox’s dad, James, was a basketball letterwinner at TriState University. Three players come from a pair of college athletes: Holly Toliver’s father, Paul, played basketball at Hope College before transferring and earning his degree at MSU, while her mom, Carolyn, played basketball and volleyball at GVSU.. Sarah Washegesics’s mom, Megan was a volleyball player, and her dad, Don, a baseball player, both at Aquinas College. Meredith Norris’ parents both competed at Alma College: Bob played basketball and her mother, Nicole, ran track.