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 team takes talents to Indiana

[media-credit name=’MATTHEW KUTZ/Herald Photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]ShawSheila_mk416[/media-credit]Over the past two weekends, the UW volleyball team has enjoyed some good-looking victories, going 5-0 in the comfortable surroundings of the UW Field House.

Now, the Badgers (10-1, 2-0 Big Ten) are out to prove themselves as road warriors.

"It's always tough going on the road, because we don't have our faithful fans in front of us cheering us on," outside hitter and co-captain Sheila Shaw said. "We have to find it within ourselves and find our own fire, and try to block out the other fans."


Wisconsin, which moved up two spots in the NCAA rankings to No. 8 after home wins over No. 5 Minnesota and Iowa, will have to do just that when they play No. 19 Purdue Friday and Illinois Saturday.

"We would love to go into those gyms and come out with two wins. That's obviously our goal," head coach Pete Waite said. "I want to see our kids step up to the challenge and answer to every great rally or good play our opponents make. Their crowds are going to be going nuts, so if we can silence some crowds, we're going [to] be doing pretty well."

Both the Boilermakers (11-2, 0-2) and the Fighting Illini (10-3, 1-1) have the potential to knock off the Badgers. UW went down to both squads on the road in 2004.

"Last year, we had some really bad games at Purdue and Illinois," libero Jocelyn Wack said. "We just want to go out there and prove that last year was just a fluke and this year, we're bigger and better and ready to compete."

Recently, the Badgers' success has been due in large part to having a balanced team.

While Wack, who takes a 42-match double-digit digs streak into the weekend, is UW's main defensive threat, there have been hefty contributions from outside hitter Maria Carlini and defensive specialists Amanda Berkley and Megan Mills.

"We did a lot of work in the preseason having everybody make a move to get to the ball," Wack said. "We've been working really hard on the whole team playing defense together, and I think [this season] we've really shown that we're doing that."

There has been a major transition in the passing game, of late. The Badgers have been implementing a two-setter system, with Jackie Simpson and Katie Lorenzen splitting time on the court.

"I think it's awesome having two setters that can run the offense really well," Simpson said. "It keeps the opponents on their toes, they don't really know what to expect."

And then there is, of course, the balance of the hitting game. Wisconsin, as they have for most of the season, enters the weekend boasting five players with at least 2.5 kills per game, led by Audra Jeffers with 3.73 per game.

"When our passing and defensive games are [working], it's really easy to get our hitters going and get our setter to distribute the ball to any of her options," Shaw said.

Purdue knows a little something about balanced offenses. Led by 6-foot-4 freshman Danita Merlau at 3.25 kills per game, the Boilermakers also have five players with 2.5 kills per game, and another at 2.48.

"Like us, Purdue has a lot of balance," Waite said. "They have got a number of people that they will go to offensively. They've even got two freshmen who are pretty key in their offense."

Waite added that the No. 19 Boilermakers have been underrated in the NCAA polls.

"Purdue is better than their ranking," he said. "They just haven't gotten a lot of credit early, because their early season schedule didn't match them up against any great teams that they could beat, but they're very strong, especially at home."

Illinois, despite having multiple attacking options, centers its offense around senior hitter Rachel VanMeter, who is averaging almost six kills a game.

"VanMeter definitely gets about twice as many attempts as the rest of her team, and she is scoring well, so we'll have to watch out for her," Waite said.

With thrilling victories at home fresh in mind, the Wisconsin players are hitting the road confident about their chances to add to their lead in the Big Ten standings.

"I think whenever you're on a big winning streak and you're beating some awesome teams, you're always going to get more confidence with wins," Shaw said. "It's really good for us because the more confident we are, the better we're going to play."

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