Newly-annointed captain Kim Kuzma and the UW volleyball team begin their spring season at home against UW-Milwaukee.[/media-credit]

This Saturday, the Badgers women’s volleyball team will make its official return to the court against UW-Milwaukee to begin its condensed spring season.

This season for women’s volleyball differs from that of the fall in that there are only 10 games on the schedule, spanning about a month, as opposed to the 29 the team played in the fall. Additionally, the spring season does not provide the Badgers with any Big Ten matches.

The upcoming season may not attribute concrete importance to the team’s record, but head coach Pete Waite believes that the progress and preparation it provides for the fall season is crucial.

“The spring is truly about progress and just raising the level of our game,” Waite said. “We’re playing some very good competition, but it’s not about wins and losses. They know that this is all building into next fall. Every chance to step onto the court is a chance to get better.”

The spring season for the Badgers has added importance in that the team is determined to make the nine-game losing streak it ended the fall season with a thing of the past. The last two fall seasons have seen Waite’s team uncharacteristically struggle to accumulate wins. Their combined record of 28-33 over that span pales in comparison to the Badger teams who from 2005-07 went a combined 78-19, even advancing in 2005 to the Elite 8 of the national championships.

On the positive side of things, there is a strong consensus around the team that to get back to winning ways, they just need to practice on cutting out the unforced errors and mental mistakes that plagued them in the fall season. Waite, junior Kim Kuzma, and sophomore Kirby Toon all alluded to the need to focus on this part of their game during the spring season in order to have a more successful fall season next year.

When asked of these unforced errors, Waite responded, “In this game of rally scoring every error is a point for the other team. The other team has to earn [their points].”

The kind of adversity the team went through in the fall can cause some teams to lose hope, but this season’s Badgers squad is dying to get back on the court and show their fans how hard they’ve trained to regain the swagger of old.

“It’s really exciting to just get in the gym,” senior and newly appointed team co-captain Kuzma said. “Especially when some of our fans can come and watch us play. Just to show people what we’ve been working on and what we’ve been trying to improve and just showing people that we really are working to get better.”

With Kuzma leading the charge into the spring season, the Badgers can count on a leader who will strive to not only make her teammates better, but to provide the much needed confidence boost the team is looking for.

“I love someone hitting the ball at me 60 miles an hour and me being like ‘oh that was easy,'” the Indiana-native said. “I want to make my team better and anything I can do to make my team better is something I have pride about.”

While Kuzma faces the adjustment to life as the team’s co-captain, new transfer Bailey Reshel faces a similar task of adjusting to life as a Badger. Because recruits don’t report to the team until the fall season, Reshel is the only new face on the squad.

Before transferring to UW, the Hortonville, Wis. native enjoyed a fantastic freshman season in which she was named 2009 Great West Conference Freshman of the Year at South Dakota and was second on the Coyotes in kills. With these credentials, it is not surprising that Waite has such high praises for the 6-foot, outside hitter.

“She’s a great athlete,” Waite said. “Very fast switch. Blocks very well. She’s young also. She’s going through a lot of learning as far as new techniques. She so far seems to be a real fast learner and real eager to be here.”

As for what attracted the young prospect to Madison, she said the appeal of big time sports was just too hard to pass up.

“It was between Wisconsin and Milwaukee,” Reshel said, “and I couldn’t turn down [the] Big Ten.”