EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State’s second-year volleyball coach Leah Johnson has taken the search for elite talent worldwide since taking over the Spartan program.

MSU had two players from Turkey on its roster last season in Selin Aslayan and Nil Okur.

Aslayan and Okur are back this fall and are joined by three incoming freshmen from other countries in Karolina Staniszewska and Zuzanna Kulig from Poland, and Taylah Holdem from New Zealand.

Johnson said the influx of international players is a result of her staff’s desire to add the best talent it can find.

“At the end of the day my job is to bring in the best talent that I can and when you’re rebuilding sometimes within our league, that talent maybe locally is going to go somewhere else first,” said Johnson. “I don’t want to compromise what elite talent is for Michigan State and so we’re going to recruit worldwide. We’re not required to recruit one place. We’re required to recruit the best.”

Michigan State also returns 11 players from the 2022 team, which finished with a 13-18 record (4-16 Big Ten). The Spartans are hoping another year of growth from the returning players leads to better results and chemistry on the court.

“Last year I felt like we built our culture and our camaraderie,” said Johnson. “We built our work ethic and we took a lot of pride in what we did and how we battled every match. Now we’re looking to improve upon points won.”

Junior setter and team captain Julia Bishop said Johnson’s passion for bringing in the best players possible is appreciated by the entire team and the combination of cultures has allowed everyone to learn from each other.

“I think that’s really important because it brings all different cultures in and it helps us learn a lot more about life in general but also on the court,” said Bishop. “There’s a bunch of different strategies that we never knew because they just play a different way. So I think it’s really cool because we have different pieces of the puzzle that no one has ever seen before.”

Michigan State will start to get a clearer view of the picture these puzzle pieces form when the team takes the court this weekend.

MSU’s season opener is Friday night at No. 25 Arkansas. The Spartans will also play Tulsa at Arkansas on Saturday afternoon.