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Michigan State volleyball: Expectations in Spartans’ first home games this season

The young Spartan team opens up their 2018 home play in the Auto Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational.

Michigan State volleyball player hits the ball during a match.
Michigan State University Spartans volleyball player Maggie Midgette (7) hits the ball during a match.
Michigan State volleyball twitter account, @MichStVB

The Michigan State Spartans (9-1) volleyball team will look to continue their longest winning streak since 2013 in the team’s first home games this weekend in the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational. The team has gone 9-0 after their only loss on the season against University of Tennessee.

Teams in Spartan Invitational

The Spartans will open up play at Jenison Field House against the University of Albany Great Danes (4-5) Friday evening at 7 p.m. This will be the first matchup between these teams since 2012, with the Spartans holding a 2-0 series record against the Great Danes.

Saturday, the Spartans will go on to face the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers (8-3) at 11 a.m. and the Western Michigan Broncos (8-3) at 7:30 p.m. The Spartans won in their first matchup against the Blazers in 2014, and have not played the Broncos since 2002, holding a 20-9-1 record against the in-state competitors. Spartans’ head coach Cathy George is the former coach of the Broncos.

Expectations for the weekend

The Spartan’s first set of games at home are expected to show nothing short of the effort they have put forth so far this season. With a team that includes seven freshman, the attention should be on how these six players begin to mesh with the team and improve from game to game. Among the freshman is Naya Gros, who was a standout last weekend in the Fairfield Invitational. The 6-foot-3 middle blocker has a has a hitting percentage of 49 percent, leading the Big Ten.

With just three upperclassmen on the team, it is a time for sophomores to assist in taking a lead. Libero Jamie Cox is one of those sophomores and the only returning starter from last season. She did not play in any of the team’s four games last weekend.

George said at her press conference Tuesday that the players are looking forward to finally being able to play at home — some for their first time.

“The team thus far, you know I think we’ve been through three weeks where we’ve had several injuries and we’ve been working around that,” said George. “But in the process of that, I think the team has really responded and different people have shown up and gained experience, which is to me very, very important as we go on this, as we get ready and [get] closer and closer to that Big Ten season.”