Big Ten 2023, News.

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A freshman, Cameron Berger is splitting the setting duties with junior Julia Bishop (Photo: Michigan State)

Anyone watching Michigan State in action during the current Big Ten women’s volleyball season has noticed something different about the Spartans’ game in their first six conference matches.

Under the guidance of second-year head coach Leah Johnson, Michigan State has been challenging opponents with a fast-paced offense, which has led the Spartans to three conference wins, including their first triumph over rivals Michigan since 2017.

  • Watch the Big Ten Volleyball matches live on VBTV.

Playing faster was an idea brought by Johnson, who believes that the fast-paced rhythm of the team’s offense can make the most of their hitters. Junior setter Julia Bishop has adapted well to it while freshman Cameron Berger also had no issues playing this way.

The new style has reflected positively on the team as the Spartans have hit a .237 efficiency rate, displaying some noticeable progress from last year’s average of .203.

“We did speed up the offense a little bit, and Julia is a big reason for that because she can play the same so fast,” Johnson explained. “You want to use your pieces to their strengths. And she’s a risk taker by heart, that is where she shines. I needed to put her in a position to be able to take more risks or feel like she’s on the attack versus the defense as an offensive component. I think it’s made for defending our offense more challenging, that speed creates space for all of our attackers differently. We feel good about our ability to serve and pass, to stay competitive. It won’t be perfect all the time, that’s not the game of volleyball. But it’ll be competitive.”

A junior, Bishop has adjusted in another way to help the Spartans on and off the court this season. One of the team’s captains, she has fully embraced her leadership role with Michigan State and is doing her best to make a positive impact on the program and her teammates.

“As a freshman, I was one of the only players to go from our former coach to our current one and that made me endure a big leadership role,” the setter reflected. “I felt that last year I started to understand what it means to be a captain in college and this year I’ve been balancing all of it a lot better. It’s not only about making sure the team is remaining on track on the court, but also about being there if anyone needs anything off the court.”

Michigan State and their new offense will be put to test this week, when the Spartans play road matches against Nebraska on Friday and Iowa on Saturday. The first encounter, set to start at 18:00 local time (23:00 UTC), will be streamed live to VBTV subscribers around the world.

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