Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


New faces, same goals for volleyball

After winning two back-to-back Big Ten Championships, one would think it is a safe bet to pick the Badgers to win the conference title once again. This may be a logical prediction according to the Pre-Season Big Ten Coaches Poll; the Badgers are picked to finish second this year.

The coaches have picked Ohio State to take the crown, a team that finished second last year in the Big Ten with a 17-3 record with losses coming only at the hands of Michigan State and Wisconsin.

“Ohio State has a core of starters that has been there since their freshman year together, including their setter Katie Virtue, middle blocker Suzie Stiling, outside hitters Shelly Draeger and Big Ten/AVCA National Freshman of the Year Stacey Gordon,” head coach Pete Waite said.

“So that’s the reason, and another reason is because we lost two All-Americans and another defensive specialist that is with the U.S. Nationals Team. [The other Big Ten coaches] feel like we are going to be taking a step down, but that’s our challenge–to try and raise our level back up and meet each team head to head and get that win one match at a time.”

Although the Badgers have lost two All-Americans, Sherisa Livingston and Lizzy Fitzgerald, and U.S. Nationals team member Sara Urbanek, the team is still returning 10 letter-winners and a talented core of players.

“We really have seven players who had starting time over the last year. It’s great to have that kind of veteran experience, but they’re not the big-name ones,” Waite said.

“I know in the Big Ten we’re picked second right now, but we see ourselves as contenders for the title. This is one of those groups where it’s going to be fun to watch. We’re going to have to have great chemistry on the court because we’re not as big and we’re not as experienced. They’re going to have to fight harder for it.”

Leading the list of returning players will be senior tri-captain Erin Byrd, the lone Badger placed on the 2002 Pre-Season All-Big Ten Team.

“I think this year’s team will be different because we are really using everyone’s athleticism,” Byrd said. “The balls will be spread out more. It is not just going to be two or three dominant hitters, it is going to be five hitters out there constantly. We are going to be very explosive and competitive.”

This past summer, Byrd trained with the U.S. National A-2 program team, where she was named the squad’s captain.

“It was a great experience–my coach was from Italy. He is well-renowned,” Byrd said. “He coached a pro team in Italy–they have a very strong women’s league there, and then [he] came over and coached in the USVP here in the United States. He had a lot of experience and taught me a lot about the game. All the girls were great athletes. It was two very high-level, intense weeks of training.”

Byrd was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten last year, started in all 31 matches and led the team defensively with 2.9 digs per game.

The second tri-captain for the Badgers will be senior Lori Rittenhouse. Although she played outside hitter last year, it looks as though she will move inside to the middle blocker position left empty by Livingston.

Red-shirt junior Morgan Shields is the final Badger tri-captain. Shields was actually named the starting setter her sophomore year over Lizzy Fitzgerald, but after being side-lined with an ankle injury four games into the season, she lost her starting spot to Fitzgerald.

“She’s had to be patient after beating Lizzy out in 2000 to start the season and then getting injured. Lizzy becomes an All-American and suddenly Morgan is on the sidelines watching for two years,” Waite said. “We decided to red shirt her last year, so it gives her two full years of experience now that we can have her on the court, and she’s ready to go. She’s just been chomping at the bit for a long, long time and she’s amazing. She’s going to be excited, and I’m excited to watch her play.”

Another player who experienced some disappointment last year was junior outside hitter Lisa Zukowski, who tore her ACL in the 19th match of the season. Zukowski was second on the team last year in kills, averaging 3.70 kills per game.

Watching her play in the team’s annual cardinal/white scrimmage, Zukowski looks better than ever and shows no signs of weakness. She should be looked at to have an outstanding junior season.

“I’d say Zukowski stood out to me [at the scrimmage] just because she is so hungry to play; she worked so hard in the off-season to come back off that knee injury. You wouldn’t know she was out at all. She hasn’t missed a beat, and if anything she’s more feisty and aggressive than ever before. She was always one of the toughest players on the court for us already,” Waite said.

After Zukowski went down, true freshman Jill Odenthal stepped up to fill her place. This year Odenthal has continued to play well and will most likely fill one of the six starting positions.

Replacing departed senior Urbanek at defensive specialist this year will be Korie Gardner. Gardner played back row for Livingston last year and should be a big contributor to the team with her strong defensive play and consistent serving.

Senior Amy Hultgren rounds out the list of the Badgers’ top seven returning players. Hultgren, a transfer from Texas University last year, was second on the team with 1.10 blocks per game.

Not only are the Badgers returning a strong core of veteran players, the team’s 2002 recruiting class is ranked fourth-best in the nation, according to Volleyball Magazine.

Three out of the five freshmen were ranked in the magazine’s Fab 50 list: Sheila Shaw (9th), Lauren Ford (28th) and Beth Haberli (50th). Katie Kohnen and Katie Lancing-Lorenzen round out the Badgers talented group of freshmen.

The team will begin its season Aug. 30 and 31 at the Caroline Classic at Chapel Hill North Carolina.

Even though there are some major personnel changes within the team, the members are not changing their goals.

“We expect a lot from Wisconsin volleyball in general. We want to be Big Ten Champs, we want to make it to the NCAA tournament, we want to make it to the Final Four and we want the national championship, and those goals are the same with this team,” Byrd said. “We are a good, strong team.”

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