East Lansing, Michigan - Michigan State appears at No. 16 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) national pre-season poll, as announced on Monday. The Spartans are one of seven teams which appear in the pre-season ranking from the Big Ten, which sent seven teams to the NCAA Sweet 16 a year ago.
Penn State (No. 1), Wisconsin (No. 6), Nebraska (No. 7) and Purdue (No. 8) are the B1G teams which start the year in the top 10, while Illinois (no. 11), Minnesota (No. 12), and the Spartans round out the Conference teams which appear in the pre-season top 25. Michigan received votes in the poll, while MSU non-conference opponents North Carolina and Duke check in at No. 20 and 21, respectively, and Oregon just missed the top 25 as the top team receiving votes.
"Polls are great to foster discussion and create some attention, but I think we all know that we can't get ahead of ourselves," said head coach Cathy George. "Seven Big Ten teams in the poll, and we're seventh of those seven - so this really more shows the respect that the Big Ten has earned nationally with seven teams in the top 16. All of the Big Ten coaches know how difficult getting through our league is year-in, year-out. We're introducing a lot of new faces into our lineup, and our hope is that we have a good pre-season, prepare ourselves well in the non-conference games, and will be ready to attack the Conference season when we open with Indiana and Purdue in the final week of September."
No. 14 in the final 2013 AVCA national poll, the Spartans will be led in 2014 by two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-America selection Kori Moster (Cincinnati, Ohio). Moster toured China as part of the USA Volleyball US Collegiate Team back in June. The team features three other seniors (OH Taylor Galloway (Portage, Mich.), DS Ryian Hubbard (Battle Creek Mich.), and MB/OH Jazmine White (Toronto, Ontario). In addition, sophomore Chloe Reinig (South Lyon Mich.) was a Big Ten All-Freshman selection, and Allyssah Fitterer (Georgetown, Ontario) made the NCAA All-Regional Team. The Spartans lost four letterwinners to graduation, which included All-Americans Lauren Wicinski and Alexis Mathews and two-year captain Kristen Kelsay.
MSU welcomes four newcomers, a freshman class ranked No. 6 in the country by PrepVolleyball.com. It is the second straight year that Cathy George and her staff have brought in a top-seven recruiting class. Alyssa Garvelink (Holland Mich.), Rachel Minarick(Naperville, Ill.) Abby Monson (Northville, Minn) and Holly Toliver (Berrien Springs Mich.), form the incoming class; Minarick, a two-time AVCA All-American, is the No. 21 Senior Ace by PrepVolleyball.com and was recently the MVP at club nationals where she led Sports Performance to a National Championship. Minarick (No. 22), Garvelink (No. 26), and Toliver (No. 31) appeared in the rankings by PrepVolleyball.com of the nation's top seniors, while Monson was an Honorable Mention.
MSU was 23-12 in 2013, and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.