Four years ago, Alyssa Garvelink walked on to Michigan State's campus a 6-foot-4, wide-eyed freshman.

The Holland, Michigan native was on a volleyball scholarship with six other freshman -- and the future looked bright.

After three years, the Spartans are poised for a big season with a big senior class and have proved it with upset wins of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 teams in the country this year.

Garvelink, an All-American middle blocker, and co-captain has led the way, along with fellow captain Rachel Minarick, the setter.

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"Right away they got along exceptionally well," Michigan State coach Kathy George said. "They see it as getting great things done together."

The chemistry began off the court, but quickly carried over.

"We have always been friends off the court and that has been important in establishing trust, especially in a setter-hitter relationship. We were able to groom that really well last year. We had a good connection rhythmically," Minarick said. "It has been nice to work with her for so long."

Garvelink totaled 145 block assists and 160 total blocks as a junior. She averaged 1.40 blocks per set, which was second in the Big Ten. She totaled 273 kills and hit .359.

A lot of that success was aided by Minarick's stellar play at setter. But even more than her play, Minarick quickly found a way to connect with Garvelink person-to-person.

"First and foremost, she is a very calming presence for me. We have a good understanding of each other. There is a lot of trust there. Honestly, we hit it off real quick," Garvelink said. "I am kind of a hothead on the court. She calms me down and keeps me level-headed."

With a level head, Garvelink transformed into an All-American, something Minarick got to see day in and day out standing next to her on the court.

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"She matured a lot physically with her technical arm swing, approach patterns and tracking the ball. She really grew a lot, especially being able to move on after a mistake," Minarick said. "We are working a lot on tempos. We want to to be able to mix up our sets to the pins, because when you have a threat like Garvelink in the middle, that allows the pins to find the seams. We want to take advantage of that."

It wasn't always that simple for the Spartans, who are ranked No. 10.

"Garvelink was really using the information that she had," George said. "She did a great job of processing the information, tracked everything a little better and put herself in position to hit. She found a better way to get herself into the offense. Those little things make a difference. Her adaptability grew and that made her so much more valuable.

"I see her being a better leader this year and seeing what kind of impact she can have on this team and our goals. She recognizes the responsibility she has for the team. It is demanding."

With seven seniors and a slew of stars returning, the Spartans have big goals.

"We are going to try to have a record year," Minarick said. "We have been in the second round of the NCAA tournament every year since this class can remember. We want to be Big Ten champs and maybe even make the Final Four."

This article is written by Dan D'Addona from Holland Sentinel, Mich. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.