Wisconsin heads to Big Sky country for tournament

first_imgFresh off their season-opening tournament win at the Air Force Falcon Invitational, the Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team will travel to Bozeman, Mont., this weekend to compete in the Holiday Inn Classic.The Badgers opened their season last weekend with a 3-0 record at the tournament, winning matches against San Jose State, Weber State and Butler in three games, respectively.However, the tournament was no cakewalk for UW, as the Badgers were still battling off a few first-game butterflies.”Our first two matches were fairly tight games even though we won in three, so our opponents were battling pretty hard, but one factor was the gymnasium we played in had pretty poor lighting,” head coach Pete Waite said of his team’s play. “It made it pretty tough to play, but it was one of those challenges you have to overcome, so once we got in the main gym I thought we played really well and really took them out of their game.”Nevertheless, the championship game offered a glimpse of a much more consistent team for the upcoming season, as they easily defeated Butler in the finale.”I thought we played really well, especially against Butler,” senior co-captain Sheila Shaw said. “We got on them right away and we stayed on them until the end, so that was a huge accomplishment, I think, for our team because it’s been pretty difficult once we get up by so much to actually stay on a team and finish them off.”Wisconsin held the Bulldogs to a mere 44 points in the three-game match, only one point away from the school record for fewest points allowed. Also, Butler’s game-three point total of 10 was one point short of the school record for fewest points allowed in a single game.This growing defensive intensity will be a key goal for the Badgers this season. In the past, Wisconsin has earned a reputation as a mainly offensive team, utilizing their big hitters to score points.”The main thing I think we’re going to focus on this year is passing and defense because we have the big hitters across the whole net, so, if we can pass and play defense then we can get the ball up there and do some damage,” Shaw said.In fact, defense, as well as passing, has been a focal point of the Badgers’ practice sessions leading up to this weekend’s tournament.”We were working hard this week, still, on our defense, our serve receives and being tougher servers,” Waite said. “I think our offense and our blocking are going to come really well, but we’ve got to work on the rest of it all the time.”Possibly the biggest highlight of last weekend’s tournament, however, was the way redshirt freshman Audra Jeffers stepped up in her first real match. Jeffers’ play was impressive enough that it’s almost as if Wisconsin isn’t missing a beat as they attempt to replace All-American Jill Odenthal.”Audra’s been doing a great job on the right side,” senior co-captain Aubrey Meierotto said. “She’s taking a lot of swings for us and she’s doing a lot defensively. She’s also very consistent, so it’s almost like having Odie right on the court.”Jeffers and sophomore Taylor Reineke, who led the Badgers with 3.86 kills per game, were named to the all-tournament team.Following the Falcon Invitational, the Badgers moved up in the national rankings one notch to No. 9, but will face their hardest opponent of the new season at the Holiday Inn Classic, when they square off against the No. 14 Missouri Tigers Saturday.”Missouri’s ranked No. 14, and a year ago they came in here at our place and they beat us,” Waite said. “They’re actually a team that I think is better than their ranking. I think they’re probably a top-10 team; they’re right up there so it’s going to be a real battle and a great challenge for us.”Missouri may present the type of challenge the Badgers need to prepare themselves for their tough conference schedule in the Big Ten, a conference possessing four of the nation’s top 12 squads.”I think it’s going to be a challenge for us and I think that’s what we need,” Meierotto said. “We need to be challenging ourselves in the preseason so we look forward to it.”The Tigers could present some problems for the Badgers, especially after their big upset last weekend over the No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers. Led by 6-foot-3 sophomore Na Yang at outside hitter with 4.33 kills per game, Missouri swept Tennessee 3-0.Though a possible upset looms with the Tigers on the docket, Wisconsin is excited to be on the court and get the new season into full swing.”We actually watched some game tape on Missouri today and they look like a really good team,” Shaw said. “They have a lot of good shooters and we’re just excited to play them.”last_img

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