East Lansing, Mich. -- - Michigan State volleyball coach Cathy George has announced the 2018 Spartan Volleyball schedule. Coming off a trip to the NCAA national quarterfinals a year ago, the Spartans will be working in six new freshmen in addition to the nine returning players on the 2018 roster.
Still to come is the announcement of the Big Ten television package as well as game times for most of the Big Ten Conference games. Those will be released closer to the start of pre-season camp.
"We have an incredibly talented team this season, but I don't think it's a secret that there will be a lot of new faces out on the floor after graduating so many seniors from our Elite Eight team," said George. "We loved the way our returners attacked the spring and look forward to seeing the newcomers join those efforts with the same intensity and enthusiasm. The Big Ten will be as competitive as ever, and we've scheduled our non-conference matches knowing we need to prepare our team by playing high-quality competition. We're really excited to get to work as there will be a lot to learn in a very short time period."
The Spartans have just three upperclassmen - senior Maddie Haggerty, who missed the 2017 season with injury, and juniors Samantha McLean, a back-row specialist, and setter Maggie Midgette. There are six sophomores and six freshmen who will be competing for playing time.
In all, seven Big Ten teams appeared in the final poll (Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Purdue), and both Michigan and Ohio State were ranked during the season. The Spartans have a challenging slate in the Big Ten once again, with two-play opponents (teams MSU will face both home and away) Purdue, Illinois, and Minnesota all in the final AVCA Poll a year ago. MSU's other two-play opponents are Iowa, Rutgers, and Ohio State. MSU will host one-plays Penn State, Indiana, and Wisconsin, while playing road contests at defending national champion Nebraska, Maryland and Northwestern.
The Spartans open the season at Tennessee, as the Vols adjust to a new head coach in 2018. Also on the docket on Rocky Top is Chattanooga, which went 13-17 a year ago but returns a stable of nine upperclassmen keen on improvement. Belmont was one game under .500 in 2017, and has a young roster featuring four sophomores and six freshmen.
In week two, the Spartans are off to North Carolina for a tournament and will face off with the host Tar Heels, which suffered through an injury-plagued campaign in 2018 that hampered their ability for success. Nearby UNC-Greensboro (on MSU's 2017 schedule before the game got wiped out by travel concerns with the Florida hurricanes last September) and Maryland- Eastern Shore are the other two opponents for MSU. Greensboro went 11-5 in conference play a year ago and 19-15 overall, falling to ETSU in the SoCon semifinals. UMES brings back six seniors from a 27-9 season (12-0 in MEAC play) and advanced to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC).
A rare trip to the northeast is on the docket for MSU in week three, where it will take on Northeastern, Harvard, Central Connecticut, and Fairfield. The host Stags have qualified for the NCAA Tournament as the MAAC Champions in each of the last three seasons, which included a first-round matchup with Michigan State in East Lansing in 2016. Harvard loses just two seniors from a 13-10 season in 2017, while Central Connecticut also graduated two from its team that boasted a 19-8 mark (11-3 NEC) and fell just short of the NCAA Tournament with a loss to LIU Brooklyn in the NEC finals. Northeastern was 17-10 and 10-6 in the CAA, falling in the quarterfinals to Hofstra.
The annual Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational wraps up non-conference play for MSU. Western Michigan was 18-13 a year ago (8-8 MAC) and made a magical run to the MAC finals before falling to Miami. Like UMES, Albany (11-15, 11-1 America East) is another NIVC qualifier from 2017, while UAB was 11-19 (4-10 Conference USA).
MSU's Big Ten schedule begins on the road at Iowa and Nebraska (Sept. 21-23), and the Spartans host Penn State on Friday, Sept. 28 in the home opener which also starts a four-game homestand, the Spartans' longest of the Big Ten season. That homestand wraps on Oct. 6 vs. Purdue as part of MSU's homecoming weekend. The annual Jam Jenison match vs. Michigan will be held on Saturday, Nov. 17.
Check MSUSpartans.com for the most up-to-date schedule with game times and promotion information.
Want the latest breaking MSU news delivered straight to your email for FREE? Sign up for the DAILY Spartan Nation newsletterWHEN YOU CLICK RIGHT HERE!Don’t miss any of the latest up to the second updates on Michigan State Sports when you follow on Twitter @HondoCarpenter