For the Wisconsin volleyball team, it’s all about finishing the season strong. That seems to be the message from almost every head coach as a team approaches the conclusion to its season.
It is no different for coach Pete Waite and Wisconsin as they conclude the regular season this week against 10th-ranked Minnesota in Madison Wednesday, followed by a trip to West Lafayette, Ind., to face Purdue for the finale Friday.
Wisconsin has played its opponents tough all season, even in losses. Despite losing 3-0, the Badgers played Minnesota point for point when they met in Minnesota more than a month ago. Although it has been an up-and-down season for the Badgers, a couple wins this week could dramatically improve their tournament chances, which at the moment seem bleak.
Waite said making the tournament has always been the goal.
“It’s huge,” Waite said of the match versus Minnesota. “If we want to get into the tournament, that’s one good way of doing it, by beating a team like Minnesota. They’re a great team, so we’re going to have to be at our best.”
The Badgers played their best match of the season statistically against the Iowa Hawkeyes Friday. As a team, Wisconsin hit an astonishing .384 en route to a 3-0 win. Sunday was a different story, as the Badgers were dominated by No. 9 Nebraska, losing 3-0. The Badgers hit only .145 in the match. Waite said consistency will be the key this week.
“It’s up to our players, themselves,” Waite said. “I know they’re going out there and giving it their best all the time. We especially need our outside hitters to score more offensively, because there’s times in the match when you can’t get the ball to your middles or right side.”
The Badgers will look to build off their match at Minnesota, which may have been their best effort of the season. Despite it being a straight-set loss, Wisconsin pushed the Gophers to extra points in the final set before falling in heart-breaking fashion.
The meeting with Purdue will be the only one of the season between the two teams. Purdue is ranked No. 21 in the nation with a 10-8 record in the Big Ten and a 19-10 overall record. Most recently, the Boilermakers pushed No. 3 Penn State to four sets at home. With it being the final match of the season, Waite said he would like to see his team finish strong, regardless of tournament hopes.
“Our goal is to get the wins,” Waite said. “That’s always our goal. Along with that, your goal is to play your best, peaking at the end of the season, doing the things you’ve been working on all season, and improving along the way. And if we accomplish that, we’ve done a good job this year.”
As Wednesday’s match will be the final one of the season, the Badgers will look to send out their seniors on a high note. Despite honoring the seniors at Friday night’s victory over Iowa, Waite said he still wants to send them out the right way Wednesday.
“We want the seniors to go out with a great memory of finishing in the Field House with a win, laying a ranked opponent and being in front of family and friends.” Waite said. “Senior night was Friday and it was nice that we could honor them during that time, but it’s nice that they can come back for an encore appearance and get another chance to play in the Field House because we know they’ve enjoyed it a lot and will miss it a lot.”