Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Volleyball roller-coaster ride finished

Although the UW volleyball team did not win the Big Ten conference this year or make it to the NCAA Championship, the team did meet preseason expectations. Way back in August in the 2002 Coaches Poll, the Badgers (24-9, 14-6 Big Ten) were picked to finish second place in the conference, and in the end, that was how the season shook out.

After the 2001 season, there were serious questions about whether the team could replace two of the finest players to ever play for the UW volleyball program. Two-time first-team All-American and 2000 Big Ten player of the year Sherisa Livingston and two-time second-team All-American and 2001 Big Ten player of the year Lizzy Fitzgerald, a middle blocker and setter, graduated and left the team with huge question marks.

The team ignored these worries and powered on to win two non-conference tournaments: the Inntowner Invitational and the Badger Invitational. In fact, the team went a smoking 9-2 before even suiting up to play a Big Ten game.


UW started out its conference schedule with cupcake Purdue but then fell unexpectantly to Illinois. It was after this disappointing game the team bounced back to a five-game match against the No.6 team in the nation, Minnesota. While the Badgers lost the game in the end, anyone watching that match knew the Badgers were the better team for the most part of the night; they just couldn’t put the match away.

After the intense game against the Gophers, the team went on to beat a youthful Iowa team and the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten, Ohio State.

The team hit another hill on the season’s roller-coaster ride as a feisty Indiana team knocked off UW in Bloomington. After this disappointing loss, the team once again climbed uphill to beat Michigan and Michigan State.

It wasn’t too long again before the Badgers fell again, and this time it was to their traveling partner Northwestern on the road.

From this point in the season on, the team lost only two more conference games and its final NCAA tournament game.

A winning streak of four games had the team riding high as the Badgers beat Penn State on the road, took revenge against Indiana and finished off Ohio State and Iowa for the second time.

After such an impressive streak, the team once again was forced to face the eventual Big Ten champion, Minnesota, this time at its place. The match did not disappoint, as it once again went to five games, in which UW went cold in the final game to lose the match.

Heading up the hill again, the Badgers posted strong wins against Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern. As the trend went all year, the team once again suffered a setback against Penn State as UW was thumped on its own court.

After this game, it seemed as though the team would finish third in the Big Ten, but a Penn State loss to Northwestern and two UW wins over Michigan and Michigan State allowed the two teams to tie for second in the Big Ten.

After crushing Alabama A&M in the first round of the NCAA tourney, the team’s season came to a premature end the next night against the second-year program of Miami.

Not only did the team’s season come to an end, but so did the careers of the three seniors: Erin Byrd, Lori Rittenhouse and Amy Hultgren.

Byrd, a captain, ended her career on top, being named to the All-Big Ten team this year after being named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten last year. From the position of outside hitter, the senior led the team in kills with 4.34 per game and was second on the team in service aces with 41 and digs per game with 2.97.

Rittenhouse, also a captain, finished the year second on the team with .81 blocks per game and 59 assists. She also tallied 2.86 kills and 1.32 digs per game.

The third and final senior, Hultgren, led the team in blocks with .96 per game and hitting percentage with a .328 percentage. She also chipped in 2.39 kills per game.

One of the steadiest forces on the team this year was redshirt junior Morgan Shields. As a setter, Shields was forced to steady the team several times through the season, and she did with her team leading 13.91 assists per game, one of the top averages in the nation. Along with her setting, Shields, also a captain, was a force behind the service line, nailing 63 aces from her powerful jump serve.

Another trend of the season, the ever-changing lineup, affected many of the players, but none more that Lisa Zukowski, as she was moved from outside hitter to libero toward the beginning of the season. She quickly adapted to the new role and was third on the team in digs, with 2.83 per game.

Two more players affected by the lineup changes were freshman middle blocker Lauren Ford and Sheila Shaw. Ford and Shaw, along with Hultgren, policed the middle almost by committee, as it was not unusual to see all three play equal minutes in some matches. Both did serious damage in the middle, as Shaw has some of the most impressive kills on the team, and Ford set a new UW three-match hitting percentage with her .875 game against Bowling Green.

Jill Odenthal, Korie Gardner and Jill Maier also made significant contributions to the team, as Gardner and Maier, defensive specialists, averaged 1.94 and 1.69 digs per game, respectively. Odenthal, an outside hitter, ended the season second on the team with 3.16 kills per game, as the lefty would power hits down the line all season.

All in all, a “roller-coaster ride” is the most appropriate way to describe the team’s season. At times, the team looked as if it didn’t deserve to even be in the running for a Big Ten title, but then there were times when the team looked like one of the top-10 teams in the country.

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