East Lansing, Mich. -- Michigan State volleyball coach Cathy George has announced the 2019 volleyball schedule, which lines up the Spartans against a challenging non-conference slate before the beginning of the Big Ten schedule in late September.
"We will have our hands full for sure," notes George, who will embark on her 15th season on the Spartan bench, already the winningest coach in program history with 273 career victories in Green and White. "We were incredibly young a year ago and were tested every time out. We've watched our team mature and grow over the last 12 months and will challenge them with an aggressive non-conference schedule coupled with the normal Big ten gauntlet. We have always had the philosophy that you need to play the best to be the best and this season will be no exception. We are confident that our team is preparing for the fall and is eager to get started. "
The Spartans open the season at the College of Charleston Classic (Aug. 30-31), taking on ACC rival Duke and the host school. CofC will play host to Stanford that weekend as well, giving the Spartans a good look at the defending National Champions.
MSU spends its next three weeks in the state of Michigan for the remainder of its non-conference schedule. Sept. 6-7 will be the annual Auto Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational, which will bring two top-25 teams to Jenison Field House in Tennessee and Cincinnati, in addition to Indiana State and Miami (Ohio). A total of seven matches are on tap for the weekend, including a rematch with the Volunteers on Saturday afternoon.
The Spartans play a pair of single matches the following week, hosting Oakland on Sept. 12 before a Sunday matinee against another ACC rival, North Carolina. MSU took a four-set thriller against the Tar Heels last September in Chapel Hill, and the teams will be meeting for the fourth time since 2014 when UNC travels to East Lansing on Sept. 15. The non-con season wraps with a three-game tournament at Western Michigan Sept. 20-21, where the Spartans will take on the host Broncos in addition to SEC entry Auburn and IUPUI.
It's hard to imagine a more difficult start to the Big Ten schedule than the one dealt to MSU, which will play five of its first games on the road at Penn State, Ohio State, Maryland, Nebraska, and Iowa. Thirteen of 14 schools in the B1G ended 2018 in the RPI top 100, with seven among the top 21. The Conference schedule begins against the Nittany Lions in State College on Wednesday Sept. 25, followed by a home date with Maryland on Saturday the 28th. The Spartans are at Ohio State and Maryland (Oct. 4-5) and then Nebraska-Iowa (Oct. 11-12) to complete the challenging start to the season.
MSU gets a respite with a four-game homestand to bring it through the remainder of October. A Friday-Sunday schedule is on tap for Oct. 18 and 20, when Rutgers and Penn State visit East Lansing. Wisconsin and Minnesota visit Jenison Field House on Oct. 25 and 26.
The month of November is a heavy one for MSU, with 10 games total (five home, five away). After a Chicago swing to Northwestern and Illinois on Nov. 1-2, the Spartans have a short road trip down to Ann Arbor for a midweek battle with archrival Michigan on Nov. 6. That sets up the Spartans for five of the final seven at home, starting with Northwestern (Nov. 9) and Nebraska (Nov. 13) before a Saturday showdown with Wisconsin in Madison on Nov. 16. The Michigan rematch – the annual Jam Jenison event – will be on Wednesday Nov. 20 in East Lansing, and the ensuing Sunday brings the Spartans to Bloomington for the first meeting in eight days against Indiana. The final weekend of the regular season, the Spartans host Purdue and the Hoosiers on Nov. 29-30.