After three tournaments away from home, the Badgers are finally set to return to the friendly confines of the Field House.
The Badgers hope to continue their 12-set winning streak this weekend at the 20th annual InnTowner Invitational, where Wisconsin (6-3) will host Notre Dame (5-3), Western Michigan (9-1) and South Florida (3-5).
The Badgers have already competed in the Duke Invitational, the NC State Invitational and the Rhode Island Invitational on their way to compiling a 6-3 record. Highlighting the second-longest road trip in program history was the Badgers’ three-straight victories in Rhode Island, winning them the tournament and a streak of 12 consecutive sets, won after effectively stopping all three of their tournament opponents from winning a set.
Sophomore Annemarie Hickey advocated the reformed mindset the team adopted before last weekend’s tournament win.
“I think we came in with a different mentality this past weekend,” Hickey said. “This spring, we had the mentality that we would work hard in every practice and refuse to lose. After this weekend, we know what it takes for us to win.”
A big part of what it takes for the Badgers to win is the solid performance of their libero Hickey, who currently ranks third in the Big Ten in digs per set with 4.88.
Hickey is quick to point out, however, that the success did not occur right away.
“When we were at NC State, I was struggling a little bit getting to the ball on digs,” Hickey said. “I just needed reassurance from my coaches. They believe in me, and I know my teammates believe in me too. So after a couple days of practice, I just changed my mentality to knowing I could do it. But there are struggles adjusting to a new role, but I’m getting there.”
Wisconsin will most likely face its strongest opponent in Western Michigan and its terrific libero sophomore Lena Oliver, who averages over seven digs per set. Oliver and the Broncos are off to their best start in 25 years, riding a six-match win streak into the tournament.
With the InnTowner Invitational being the last set of matches before the start of Big Ten play, the Badgers will focus on cleaning up the errors that plagued them throughout the Rhode Island Invitational.
“You always want to limit your errors,” head coach Pete Waite said. “This is a sport where you serve it out of bounds and it’s a point for the other team. You really have to keep your errors down, and the biggest focus is the unforced errors. There are some errors that will happen because the other team did something great. If it’s you who’s making the error whether it’s a service error or hitting the ball out of bounds, we have to improve those areas to have a much better chance of winning every match we play.”
All things aside, it simply feels good to be back home for the Badgers.
“”Even when we were coming home this weekend, I was excited to go back home and play at the Field House,” Hickey said. “It’s always so much fun, and the atmosphere and fans are great.”