East Lansing, Mich. - - Michigan State held its annual pre-season media day on Friday, August 22. For the second year in a row, the first hour of the day was dedicated to playing sand volleyball and taking the media through some drills, followed by a preview of the upcoming 2014 season.
At the end, the team capped a fun event with a run through a ropes course, before heading back to campus for a full practice in advance of Saturday's Green & White exhibition game (4 p.m.)
"We've really enjoyed this format the last couple of years," said head coach Cathy George. "I think that it really provides the media a good idea more of an inside look at the game and the skill set our players possess. The media folks are great sports, and really get into it - I think they let loose their competitive sides a bit. The more important thing is that comes out of it is the relationship between our local media members and our program. After today, these are familiar faces when they come to our gym for a practice or a game."
MSU fans can get their first look at the Spartans on Saturday afternoon with the annual Green & White match, held at Jenison Field House at 4 p.m. The season officially begins next Friday at the UAB/Samford Invitational.
WATCH: Volleyball Media Day
Top Notes from MSU's Preseason Media Day
Michigan State appears at No. 16 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) national pre-season poll. The Spartans are one of seven Big Ten teams which appear in the pre-season ranking; the Conference 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.
Michigan State was selected sixth in the Big Ten preseason volleyball poll. Defending NCAA and Big Ten Champion Penn State was chosen as the conference favorite after claiming its sixth national title last season. The poll is formulated by a vote of the conference's 14 head coaches.
The Big Ten coaches selected a pre-season all-conference team, and senior libero Kori Moster (Cincinnatti, Ohio) was one of six unanimous selections among the 15 players selected to the team. The two-time defending Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All-America captains the Spartans this season for the third year in a row.
Moster and Jazmine White (Toronto, Ontario) will serve as team captains in the 2014 season. Moster is the third three-time captain in program history, along with Nikki Colson (2001-03) and Katie Johnson (2005-07).
The Spartans will be led in 2014 by two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-America selection Moster, who toured China as part of the USA Volleyball US Collegiate Team back in June. The team features three other seniors: MB/OH White, OH Taylor Galloway (Portage, Mich.), and DS Ryian Hubbard (Battle Creek Mich.), 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.
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 will play 11 non-conference games, and starts its home slate when it hosts Duke and North Carolina (both of which went 27-4 last year) in Big Ten-ACC Challenge games. The Spartans then travel 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.