Volleyball keeps bags packed

Posted on September 17, 2020Categories jxglxhsnTags , , , , , , , , , , ,   Leave a comment on Volleyball keeps bags packed

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoAfter nearly a month of fine-tuning in early-season tournaments, the Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team is ready to tip off the real season with the start of conference play.Wisconsin will travel to the Land of Lincoln this weekend for a match against Illinois Friday and Northwestern Saturday as Big Ten action gets underway.The Badgers have stressed the need for improvement ever since opening the season at home with the AVCA Volleyball Showcase. After dropping a match to top-ranked Texas and squeaking by unranked teams in later tournaments, several key areas to develop were exposed, such as passing and defense.”I think we’ve definitely picked up our serving,” senior floor captain Maria Carlini said. “We’ve been working really hard on our defense as well and it shows. We’ve been outdigging teams that we haven’t in the past.”Head coach Pete Waite, on the other hand, is still looking for his team to get better in a different facet of the game — one that doesn’t involve skill so much as energy.”We’ve definitely improved since the AVCA Showcase, but there are still things we need to work on,” Waite said. “We need to try to push hard right away to get the jump on teams. This is a very good come-from-behind team, but it’s not a situation I’d like us to be in.”This weekend will provide the Badgers with a test to see where they are in their progression since the start of the year as both Illinois and Northwestern have drastically improved since last year.In 2005, the Fighting Illini and Wildcats finished in the middle of the conference at seventh and sixth, respectively. Despite being predicted to finish at just about the same spots, the two figure to be the conference dark horses.Illinois acquired two transfers in the off-season — outside hitters Stephanie Alde from Northwestern and Amy Palash from Valparaiso — something Waite believes makes the Illini a respectable team instantly.”Illinois has two transfers coming so they automatically have two veteran players stepping into their lineup that would’ve been holes with inexperienced players,” Waite said. “That alone makes them stronger already.”Illinois also has a very balanced team with two players hitting more than four kills per game — middle blocker Vikki Brown and outside hitter Kayani Turner.Freshman Ashley Edinger, ranked as the No. 1 incoming libero in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com, has stepped in for Illinois and provided the team with some much-needed defense, averaging 5.03 digs per game.The toughest part about traveling to Champaign, Ill., will undoubtedly be adjusting to Huff Hall. Its student section is one of the largest in the nation, as 1,682 students packed in for one of last weekend’s games, more than half of the 3,129 total fans in the arena. Furthermore, Huff Hall’s court is a tad bit shorter than most others so there is much less space to serve.”Their crowd has gotten stronger every year, so it’s a tough place to play,” Waite said.As for Northwestern, the Wildcats are coming off an upset win over then-No. 24 Arizona at home, going on to win its Wildcat Classic last weekend in dramatic five-game fashion. NU is undefeated at home so far this season.”Northwestern definitely has improved from last year,” UW outside hitter Audra Jeffers said. “They’re doing a lot more out of the back row with three hitters out of the back, so that’s going to be huge with our blocking.”We’re really going to have to seal up the block across the net, get all three blockers in to stop that.”Defensively, Northwestern is somewhat similar to Illinois.”Both Illinois and Northwestern are really good defensive teams,” said Carlini. “The main thing with those teams is they’re really scrappy, they play great defense so we need to outdig them.”Either way, starting the Big Ten season out on the road will be difficult, but the Badgers are used to traveling lately. After opening the season at home with the AVCA Volleyball Showcase and the following InnTowner Invitational, Wisconsin has been away from the Field House ever since, going as far as San Diego last weekend.”You’ve got to start somewhere,” Waite said. “We’ve been on the road the last two weekends so this will be three in a row for us, and in ways I think we’re prepared for it because we’re just packing up the suitcases again and hitting the road. We’re ready to go.”last_img read more