Spartans Travel to Oregon for Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge

The Spartans will face No. 18 Oregon and unranked Oregon State this weekend as part of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

After dropping a pair of matches against No. 20 North Carolina and No. 19 Duke, the Spartans are eager to show they can put up a fight against ranked opponents and have been working on improvements this week in practice.

“I think a lot of what we’ve been working on is obviously the physical aspects of the game, but getting to play together and having a better relationship as a team on the court and also just discipline, playing with intention and focusing on details,” senior captain Jazmine White said. “That’s something that we can hold our standard to no matter how hard we play or how we do play, so that’s kind of a focus for this weekend.”

The Spartans fell to No. 23 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) national poll with a record of 4-2 following last weekend’s losses.

There were obvious offensive and defensive adjustments made between Friday night’s three-set loss to North Carolina and Saturday night’s five-set, see-saw battle against Duke.

MSU head coach Cathy George said the adjustments have been necessary in preparing to face Oregon’s fast-paced offense and a strong Oregon State team.

“Obviously we needed to sharpen a lot of our offense and defense…we were sloppy (last weekend),” George said. “We’ve worked this week to identify some key areas to get to work on before we face a very fast Oregon and very solid Oregon State team.”

Oregon enters this weekend with a perfect 6-0 record. Oregon State is a perfect 5-0 and is receiving votes in the AVCA national poll.

“They’re balanced but it’s just a different speed of the game so we’ve been practicing that a lot right now during the week and we’re excited,” White said about Oregon. “We’ve been doing really well with it so far.”

George said some of the key areas the team has been working in preparation for this weekend’s opponents include blocking, blocking assignments and overall stability.

Friday’s contest against Oregon and Saturday’s contest against Oregon State marks the Spartans’ last two non-conference road games of the season.

The Spartans will face LIU Brooklyn, Western Kentucky and UW-Milwaukee on Sept. 19 and 20 in East Lansing to finish up their non-conference schedule.

White said facing tough opponents such as Oregon and Oregon State provide essential preparation for conference play.

“In the Big Ten, no matter who you’re playing, it’s the best conference in the country so you’re playing great teams all the time,” White said. “Ranked or not, it’s going to be good competition in the Big Ten and we’re preparing ourselves for that right now.”

Alex Tekip is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: Michigan State University Volleyball