The Wisconsin volleyball team opens its home season this weekend when it hosts the Badger Invitational. The two-day tournament will be played from Friday afternoon through Saturday evening at the UW Fieldhouse. Joining the Badgers in the four-team format are St. Louis, Northern Iowa, and Ball State.
The first competition for UW will be Friday against Ball State at 7:00pm. This game will hold particular sentimental value to Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite. The coach graduated from Ball State in 1981 and earned three letters in volleyball during his athletic career as a Cardinal.
After starting out its season with losses to Alabama and Pittsburgh, Ball State (2-2) comes to Madison after a sweep over Indiana and Purdue. The Cardinals will be led by senior Susie Meshberger, who recorded 11 kills and a 52.9 hitting percentage over IUPUI.
The Badgers take on St. Louis at noon Saturday. The Billikens (2-2) are coming off a home-opening sweep of Murray State. To begin the season St. Louis displayed solid play in the Butler Invitational. The Billikens took second, and junior middle-hitter Colleen Hunter was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after recording an amazing 71.4 hitting percentage in the invitational.
To close out the Badger Invite, Wisconsin will play Northern Iowa Saturday night at 7:00pm.
Beside UW, the 3-0 Panthers are perhaps the strongest team coming into the tournament. To begin its season, Northern Iowa swept and won the Lobo Invitational in New Mexico.
In the tournament the Panthers dominated the net, posting an attack percentage of 35.4 — compared with the 6.9 that the University of New Mexico recorded. Northern Iowa is led by 6-foot sophomore middle blocker Molly O’Brien, whose nine kills earned her the Lobo Invitational MVP award.
Northern Iowa head coach Bobbi Peterson has had experience with two of the tournament teams in the past. In 1999 her Panthers defeated Ball State in the first round of the NCAA tournament and swept their way to the Sweet 16. Last season the Panthers were ousted from the tournament in the second round by Wisconsin
Ball State was coaxed into the Badger Invite by being promised a rematch with Northern Iowa. The two teams face off Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. in the Field House.
The Badgers come into their home opener with strong momentum. Moving up one spot on the USA Today Top 25 poll to No. 3, the Badgers look to continue their winning ways this weekend.
A roster of talented and experienced players will lead UW. Senior middle blocker Sherisa Livingston brings a formidable force to the Badger front line. The 2000 co-Big Ten Player of the Year will be Wisconsin’s most important weapon.
Coming off a solid performance at the UC-Irvine Tournament, senior setter Lizzy Fitzgerald also looks to continue her stellar performance this weekend. Named last week’s National Player of the Week, Fitzgerald’s presence should intimidate the Badger opponents across the net.
The Badger Invite will open Friday at 4:30 p.m., with Northern Iowa taking on St. Louis.