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’s last line of defense

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One of the keys to the Wisconsin volleyball team's early-season success has been quality defensive play. Relying on the experience of veteran players and defensive stars such as Amanda Berkley, Megan Mills and Jocelyn Wack, Wisconsin's defense has made a trademark of being stingy.

"Every week, we study the opponent's best hitters and try to learn their favorite shots," Berkley said.

Though no amount of pre-game study can guarantee success on the court, the Badgers' scouting and film study seem to be paying off. As evidenced by convincing wins against Michigan State and No. 24 Michigan last week, the Badger back court players usually seem to be in the right place at the right time. But positioning is only one half of the battle, according to libero Jocelyn Wack.


"In practice, we've been focusing on being stopped and set before we make the dig," Wack said. "Control is important."

While technique is integral to successful defense, the Badger back court players are also known for their speed and dynamic play. Die-hard Field House fans have grown accustomed to watching Berkley, Mills and Wack lay out fully in order to make spectacular saves. In this regard, the UW defenders try not to disappoint.

"Pancakes," Wack said, when asked what brings the crowd to their feet.

Another strategy that is fundamental to Wisconsin's defensive success is the communication that the back row players establish with the blockers. While the game is too fast-paced to allow much in the way of verbal directions, defensive specialists such as Mills and Berkley must be able to read the body movements of their own front line, as well as those of the opponents.

"When the ball comes off a blocker, it can go anywhere," Mills said.

"You have to expect anything," Berkley said, agreeing with her teammate. "When you make a read it is important to get to your position and then stop so that you can go in any direction."

Team chemistry also plays a vital role in the Badger's defensive success. On the court, the Badgers genuinely seem to have fun. The relaxed atmosphere is partially a result of the experience of the back row players. Mills noted that they have played together for three years and know how their teammates typically react.

Equally important, UW defenders seem more than willing to work as a unit and share the spotlight. When asked to discuss blocking, Berkley quickly noted the stellar play of the front line.

"They're doing awesome," Berkley said.

Wack was equally enthusiastic, citing the blockers as a real strength area this year. "They're doing great," she said. "Even when they don't get the block, they make the hitters hit around them and get lots of touches which helps us out."

Although all three of the back row players share the mutual goal of preventing opponents from tallying kills, each of the players brings something different to the court. Mills' strengths include a wicked serve and digging from the right back court. Her teammates also praise her scrappy play.

Berkley specializes in control.

"She's good with her hands," Mills said.

Wack takes a different angle, complementing Berkley's vocal quality on the court. "She's loud," Wack said, with a grin.

Wack's up-tempo style of play synergizes nicely with that of defensive specialists Mills and Berkley. Holding the NCAA record for consecutive matches with double figure digs, the junior libero provides bedrock consistency to an already talented back row. Mills cited Wack's ability to read the offense as her primary strength.

"She's on the money," Berkley said in regard to Wack's passing ability.

Although Wisconsin is unbeaten in the Big Ten and rank 13th nationally, the back row noted that defensively they have areas upon which they need to improve. Mills stated that consistency was one of those areas. Wack and Berkley echoed the sentiment.

"We need to get more balls up," said Berkley.

The Badgers' national prominence has drawn the attention of the broadcast industry as three games will be broadcast on television, including a national televised game on ESPN2 later this year.

While all of the Badgers will be hustling to make plays in the limelight, you can be sure that Wack, Mills, and Berkley will be doing what the Badger back row players do best — making those acrobatic "pancakes," constantly bringing the crowd to its feet.

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