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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Passing plays pivotal role in Badgers’ trio of dominant wins

At this weekend's InnTowner Invitational, one could argue that the difference between the Wisconsin women's volleyball team and their three contenders was the strong overhead attack of the Badgers.

This opinion certainly does make sense. When No. 13 Wisconsin smacked 164 kills in two matches against 122 for their opponents, their success was easy to comprehend.

But, according to UW head coach Pete Waite, the Wisconsin offense simply could not have taken first place at the InnTowner had it not been for the team's vast improvement on their setup shots to the kill.


"Coming into this year, we have worked a lot on our passing game. We tell our passers and defenders all the time that they run the court, they run our offense. They have got a big responsibility out there, and they did really well [in this tournament]," Waite explained.

What makes for such a potent passing game?

An easy start is sophomore setter Jackie Simpson. As primary assist-getter for the Badgers, Simpson accumulated 129 assists in the tournament, while opposing setters achieved 103 against UW.

"It's been really easy to set a balance with the hitters. When our passing is right on, we have the versatile hitters that we can either run in [to the center], we can run them outside, there's so many options, which makes the plays fun," Simpson said.

Senior middle blocker Sheila Shaw was the tournament MVP, thanks to her 12 kills against UCLA. Shaw was quick to praise her setter in helping her get the accolades.

"Jackie did a really great job delivering the ball to me at the right time. She realized when their blockers were sitting out, so she got me a lot of one-on-one match-ups, so everything was clicking," Shaw commented.

Simpson hit 113 assists in the Montana State Holiday Inn Classic earlier this season, earning all-tournament honors for her efforts.

"I think Jackie actually set a lot better this weekend than she did [at the Montana State Classic]. It just comes from even-better passing from the whole team, and she did a great job," Waite said.

But the Badgers' set-up game doesn't start and end with Simpson. Junior setter Katie Lorenzen has 49 assists this season, and sophomore middle blocker Taylor Reineke has 12. Sophomore liberos Jocelyn Wack and Amanda Berkley have added 12 and 8, respectively.

Even though players like Wack and Berkley haven't lit up the statistic categories in kills or assists, Waite said that his two main defenders are imperative in keeping his team's passing solid.

"While our setters always have a lot of great options, it takes our defense to start those plays. Without that, we wouldn't even have any options," Waite said.

Wack does take the majority of digs for the team. With three more matches with double-digit digs at the InnTowner, she added to what is now her 40-match streak of 10 or more digs.

Aside from Berkley, Wisconsin's outside hitters, junior Maria Carlini and redshirt freshman Audra Jeffers, have been the main supporters in the digs department.

"As a team, with some things that we've been doing differently, we've been moving really well to the ball. We've all been able to dig the ball around, and the results have been awesome," Wack said.

Perhaps Simpson's greatest asset is that she has been surrounded by a score of attacking talent without one so-called "best player."

The final round of the InnTowner was a great example. Wisconsin took home an impressive victory over No. 11 UCLA, 30-26, 30-28, 30-23. Five Badgers had at least eight kills, yet Shaw and Reineke led the team with just 12 each.

Stats like these prove that when Simpson has time to set up a kill, there is no need to look to any one player in particular. Simpson said that this just adds to the offensive strength Wisconsin brings to every match.

"The beauty of this team is that all of the hitters are phenomenal. It really doesn't matter who I go to, because there's confidence in everybody out there, and as the setter, that's really exciting," Simpson commented.

In the second game against UCLA, Wisconsin stumbled a bit, going down 16-22. Just when the Bruins looked like they would even up the match at one game all, it was Wisconsin's passing game, according to senior outside hitter Aubrey Meierotto, which fueled eight-straight Badger points, effectively taking UCLA right out of the match.

"I think, mainly, it was just our passing defense. We knew that if we dug some balls, we could definitely take care of things offensively. That's what we started to do towards the end of the second game and got it going again," Meierotto explained.

Just try to ask Waite what he cares about most inside the Badger offense

"Passing. We always talk about passing, [the team] hears about it every day in practice, all the time, every day, and they know it. They know that if we set up something in the offense, they have got to pass up a good ball. They've got to hit a good pass in the setting zone, or we've got no shot," Waite said.

From the looks of it, UW has a shot.

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