Women’s volleyball begins season with high hopes

· Aug 30, 2001 Tweet

Looking to capitalize on its unprecedented success last year, the Wisconsin volleyball team goes into its 2001 season with high expectations.

In his third season as UW’s head coach, Pete Waite hopes to build on last year’s success. Waite tallied a 50-13 record at Wisconsin in his first two seasons, and he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year last year after he led UW to a conference title and a second-place finish at the NCAA championships. However, Waite will have his work cut out for him trying to repeat the incredible success his team enjoyed last season.

Maintaining much of their roster from their second-place team last season, the Badgers have offset losses of big-time playmakers with the arrival of a very talented freshman class.

One of the biggest setbacks for the Badgers is the loss of all-Big Ten player Jenny Maastricht, who ended her career at Madison last season. Another major loss for the Badger roster was the departure of 2000 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Claudia Rodriguez. Redshirted her freshman year due to a knee injury, Rodriguez battled back and had an successful season in 2000 that helped further the Badgers’ run to the NCAA championship finals.

Unfortunately for UW, Rodriguez suffered a dislocated right shoulder prior to the NCAA regional semifinal; she spent most of the spring season recuperating. Rodriguez left Madison to return to her home in Mexico, citing personal reasons as well as emotional and physical strain over the two injuries.

Hoping to offset the loss of two of his key starters, Waite recruited a very talented freshman class. Named the sixth-best recruiting class in Division I volleyball by Volleyball magazine, the three freshmen will be a great addition to the Wisconsin roster. The three players — Aubrey Meierotto, Marian Weidrer, and Jill Odenthal — were all ranked in Volleyball magazine’s prestigious “Fab 50” list of the most talented players in their class.

Even with the loss of Rodriguez and Maastricht, the Badgers still have the backbone of their team intact with the return of two seniors, 6-foot-2 middle blocker Sherisa Livingston and 6-foot-0 setter Lizzy Fitzgerald. Both players earned all-Big Ten and all-American honors last season, and Livingston shared the Big Ten Player of the Year award with Minnesota’s Nicole Branagh.
Both Livingston and Fitzgerald were named preseason all-Big Ten players and are expected to be the heart of the 2001 Badger team. Livingston averaged a Big Ten-high 5.19 kills per game, while Fitzgerald averaged 13.76 assists per game.

Conference outlook: The Badgers as a whole were picked to finish second in the Big Ten this season by a poll of league coaches, while Penn State was picked to finish first. It is the fifth year in a row the Nittany Lions have been selected in the preseason to take the conference title.

However, Penn State is not the only team that will cause problems for the Badgers this season. Conference powerhouse Minnesota graduated their MVP, but still looks to be strong competitors. Ohio State has three players on the preseason all-Big Ten team and will no doubt be ready to try to repeat their 2000 victory over the Badgers during conference play.

Road to the repeat: Wisconsin begins its season with four tournaments, including the Badger Invitational and the Inntower Invitational in Wisconsin. Sherisa Livingston will look to repeat her MVP performance at the Inntower Invite as the Badgers hope to repeat as tournament champs.
Conference play for UW begins Sept. 21 in Madison against Michigan State. The Badgers will play each Big Ten volleyball team twice over the two months of the regular season.

The NCAA tournament starts Nov. 30 and runs until the championship round Dec. 13 and 16 in San Diego, Calif. There, the Badgers hope to accomplish the only goal they failed to reach last season — a national championship.

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This article was published Aug 30, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Aug 30, 2001 at 12:00 am

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