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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Mills serving up success for Wisconsin

[media-credit name=’DEREK MONTGOMERY/Herald Photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]mills1_dm_416[/media-credit]You wouldn't know by looking at her that she was a key member of the University of Wisconsin volleyball team. After all, she is only 5-foot-6, looking up at a starting lineup stuffed with 6-footers.

Even if she can't smack any kills for the No. 10-ranked Badgers, Megan Mills has been deadly to Wisconsin opponents with her serving and defense.

Mills, a sophomore from Portage, Wis., is rapidly becoming a fantastic option off the bench for head coach Pete Waite as Wisconsin (8-1) heads into Big Ten play, beginning this Friday at 7 p.m. at the UW Field House against the No. 5-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-1).

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"Megan Mills is somebody who's stepped up for us as a defensive specialist, and really is becoming a serving specialist as well," Waite said.

In 2004, Mills played her freshman year as a tentative defensive replacement for the outside hitters during the Badger matches.

"At the end of the year, I started going in for Aubrey (Meierotto) after she served, but I would also come in and serve for [2004 Badger Jill Odenthal, who graduated last year]," Mills said. "This year, it's been pretty consistent that I come in for Audra Jeffers."

During the InnTowner Invitational last weekend, Mills hit five service aces against two service errors. Her best game came against Valparaiso, setting a career high with three aces without missing a serve.

"Against Valparaiso, Megan was just serving well, and that really got them out of their offense. We got a lot of points out of her (serving) rotation," Waite said.

The Badgers' biggest win of the weekend came in the final round against the No. 13 UCLA Bruins, as Mills came up huge, serving on 22 out of 90 points that fell in Wisconsin's favor.

After that match, Waite praised Mills for her play coming off the bench, speaking of her importance to the team in their success.

"Obviously, it's nice to hear that, to know that I'm contributing in some way," Mills said.

Mills' success in 2005 has been a large reason why UW's serving statistics have drastically improved. Last year's team ranked dead last in the Big Ten in serving, with 1.02 service aces and 2.46 serving errors per game. After three tournaments this season, Wisconsin is now averaging 1.81 aces per game.

"We struggled with serving last year, so this year our goals are to get more serves in and make them tougher," Mills said. "We want to force the other team to pass better in order to run their offense."

While other members of the team, including sophomore libero Jocelyn Wack and sophomore setter Jackie Simpson, rely on more aggressive serving styles, Mills has been working on a conservative serve in order to keep the ball in play and give the Badgers a chance to work into the offense.

"I have the same serving ritual as the others, but that's more to keep me in the game, to keep me focused when I get back there on every serve," Mills said. "I've been working on the floater serve every practice, which just makes good, solid contact and keeps the ball moving after I hit it, instead of following through and putting spin on it."

Perhaps the varied style that Wisconsin takes on when Mills enters the game has added to the team's success when she serves. With Wack and sophomore defensive specialist Amanda Berkley joining Mills in the backcourt, not to mention the Badgers' highly-touted blocking team, things can get rather tricky for UW opponents when they attempt to put the ball away.

"We do change our defense, not necessarily because I'm serving, but we have put together a different rotation to play a different style of defense when I'm in there," Mills said. "We have had to adapt our passing; there's no back-court passing when I'm in there, because Jo (Wack), Berkley and I are the defenders and none of us can hit (offensively). So, if anything, we're just back there with a defensive state of mind, making sure we're digging the balls out to our offense."

With the Golden Gophers coming to town, Waite certainly hopes to see Minnesota struggle with Mills' serve as have other Badger competition this year.

"She's really keeping the other teams out of their offense. And that's the biggest part. If you serve tough, the other team can't play offense how they want to," Waite said.

Mills said the team looks to the UCLA victory, as well as past success against the interstate rival, for added confidence.

"We beat them at home last year, and so we obviously want to keep it up where we left off."

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