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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Unscathed Badgers ready for grueling Big Ten

Wisconsin volleyball head coach Pete Waite addressed the media yesterday in a press conference at Camp Randall following the team’s weekend victories over UW-Green Bay. With this past weekend’s wrap-up to non-conference play, the Badgers are a perfect 11-0. This ties the program’s record for the best start to a season and stands as UW’s best opening since 1996.

Waite’s Return to NIU

Waite returned to Northern Illinois University last week as the Badgers took on the Huskies Tuesday and decisively won all three games there. NIU was Waite’s first head coaching job, a position he held there between 1988 and 1998. Waite hadn’t faced NIU since Wisconsin hired him for the 1999 season.


“We had a nice win at Northern Illinois, which was a big match for me and the program with all the hype of me going back there after 12 years,” Waite said. “It was a great way to win and [Northern Illinois] played great. And the sell-out environment, which was great for our program to have our young kids deal with that.”

Nearly a thousand spectators packed the Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill., to watch Waite lead his Badgers back onto his old court.

During his 10 years at Northern Illinois, Waite’s record stood at 266-102 with eight conference first-place finishes. NIU suffered only one losing season and made it into the NCAA championship tournament four times during Waite’s 10-year tenure.

Big Ten Play Opens Up

After UW’s perfect start against non-conference teams, the Badgers face two highly-ranked opponents. No. 25 Ohio State plays UW at the Field House at 7 p.m. Friday, while No. 2 Penn State will take the court against UW at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“We’ve got two ranked opponents, then another ranked opponent coming in next Wednesday (No. 5 Illinois),” Waite said. “Our next three matches are going to be against top 25 teams, so it’s going to be really exciting.”

The Badgers are not ranked but received five votes in the latest poll, which came out Sept. 13.

After cruising through the non-conference schedule, there is concern that Wisconsin may not be completely tuned up for the heavy hitters coming up in the schedule. Wisconsin may not yet have played a match that would bring them to the competition level of the Big Ten schools.

“I don’t know about a full match,” Waite said. “There were times when teams we were playing brought a set against us that was really a great level of volleyball.”

Nonetheless, Waite does not believe that his players feel over-confident after their perfect start.

“There won’t be any over-confidence,” Waite said. “We’re starting a number of young players, sometimes four freshman and a sophomore out there, which is great. Sometimes they don’t know any better, they just go out and play, there’s not that added pressure to feel that ‘we’re a senior-laden group and we need to win now.’ They don’t know any better, they just go out and play.”

The teams coming in, especially Penn State, have a legacy in the volleyball world. Penn State’s star players from its past dominating teams, Alisha Glass and Megan Hodge, graduated last year and PSU also recently took its first loss in almost three years. Still, the Nittany Lions remain intimidating. Waite still expressed confidence that his team could hang with the Big Ten opposition.

“Penn State finally took a loss after how many years, [but] it’s not like they’re taking a dip down,” Waite said. “They’re going to be very strong. And Ohio State, they’ve only lost one, and they do return a lot of players from last year. But, I do think we have the tools to compete against these teams and that’s encouraging.”

“The Big Ten is strong,” Waite said. “We’ve got a lot of teams in the top 25 right now, probably more than ever since I’ve been here.”

Healthy Kuzma Playing Well

For the past three matches, Kim Kuzma has led the Badgers with digs, amassing 43 over that span. Kuzma is one of only three seniors on a squad that also contains five freshmen and six sophomores.

“[Kuzma’s] been doing a great job,” Waite said. “Serve-receive number one she’s improved since last year, serving number two she’s improved since last year, and number three her defense has improved. So, three areas for a senior to step up like that is amazing actually to make that kind of stride.”

Waite attributed these improvements partially to playing healthy again.

“A year ago, her back was really hurting her badly,” Waite said. “She really got healthy over the spring and summer. You know, last year she’d hit the floor and couldn’t get back up in a lot of the matches. Now she’s feeling great out there and she’s been leading the team in a number of categories. She has been huge for us.”

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