After a weekend road trip that concluded with the Wisconsin volleyball team falling to Michigan State and upsetting No. 18 Michigan, head coach Pete Waite said he was pleased about the way his team battled throughout the weekend.
Waite met with the media in his weekly Monday press conference, assessing the Badgers’ performance as October play heats up.
“I thought we battled well but just couldn’t quite get that win (against MSU) there,” Waite said. “But then we came back and responded well the next day and got a nice road win over another ranked team. That was two in one week after beating (No. 24) Ohio State the week before on Sunday.
“So I’m pleased with the progress, and we’re seeing more and more of the team that we’ve been looking for, and the youth is growing up pretty quickly.”
Waite also described the challenges that have been rooted in the Badgers’ youth throughout the season.
“These freshmen are seeing these teams for the first time ever in their lives,” Waite said. “You can show them videotape, you can show them scouting reports, but until they see them live and in person, they can’t get the real impact of the power of some of the players and the size and the schemes that they’re running at them.”
One of the freshmen that thrived over the weekend was Courtney Thomas. Thomas became the fourth player in Wisconsin history to record a triple-double, as the freshman totaled 16 kills, 15 digs and 26 assists in the Badgers’ loss to the Spartans.
Waite acknowledged that the freshman’s task was no easy accomplishment.
“Just the fact that the balls would have to be coming your way to get the double-digit digs, but then Courtney is doing a great job,” Waite said. “She’s setting for us, she’s attacking well, one of our top hitters and she’s an excellent defender. She’s just a great competitor. She’s made a huge difference out there for us this weekend.”
The Badgers will need Thomas’ play going into the upcoming matches, as the Badgers take on the No. 5 Nebraska Cornhuskers this weekend. This will be the Badgers’ first encounter with their new conference foe.
“Well, I think a lot of volleyball fans are thrilled with the addition [of Nebraska],” Waite said. “It’s a great program. (John) Cook has done a great job since he left here, and it just makes our conference stronger and stronger.”
Wisconsin won’t go into the match completely unaware of its new opponent, as the two programs have clashed recently.
“We’re very familiar with them having seen them here and there,” Waite said. “We played them last spring in a competition in Chicago. For us, it’s a great challenge. Again, we’re the underdog, we’re going after it and trying to see if we can put back-to-back matches together from Saturday night until this Friday.”
The Badgers have also garnered national attention for their performances during the conference season. In the most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 coaches poll, the Badgers received four votes.
Waite said it was just a matter of how early the team would begin to click as to when the attention would come.
“Well, I think they’ve been watching us,” Waite said. “They knew we had a good freshman class coming in. It was just a matter of when they would catch fire and get a spark going. I think both in the conference and nationally, people are saying, `Oh, here they come. They’re doing some things now and they’re getting their team together.’”