UW volleyball team kicks off year with high hopes

UW volleyball team kicks off year with high hopes

first_imgDEREK MONTGOMERY/Herald photoThe University of Wisconsin volleyball team heads into the 2005 season with high expectations coming off a successful 2004 season highlighted by an impressive NCAA tournament run. The Badgers advanced to the Elite Eight as they defeated the second-ranked Hawaii Rainbow Wahine before losing to eventual champion Stanford.Though last year’s stellar NCAA showing may add pressure for the relatively young Badger squad to live up to expectations, head coach Pete Waite welcomes the attention going into the new season.“Well, sure, (we’ll have to live up to expectations), but that’s where we want to be, though,” Waite said. “We want to be one of those top teams in the country and a premier program, so we’re really just still growing. The majority of our starters are still sophomores, so they’re still learning and maturing, but it’s a great blend of players and personalities, so they’re going to be really strong.”The Badgers ended last season with a No. 14 national ranking, but with six of seven starters returning from a year ago, they earned themselves a No. 10 pre-season ranking in the CSTV/AVCA Coaches’ Poll. However, Waite is well aware that pre-season rankings go by the wayside when the season gets underway.“Obviously, being ranked 10th nationally is a great honor, but it doesn’t mean anything until you start playing and you really have to prove yourselves,” Waite said. “And we have a tough schedule ahead of us. We know that and the team knows it.”Senior co-captains Aubrey Meierotto and Sheila Shaw return to lead this year’s squad. Shaw is coming off a banner season in which she earned unanimous all-Big Ten and honorable mention All-American honors.The Badgers’ youth was a slight problem early last year, especially with newcomers Jocelyn Wack and Jackie Simpson starting at libero and setter, respectively. However, Waite now believes that his team has rid itself of the learning bumps and should be well prepared for an exciting season.“Well, last year, with three freshmen starters and the libero being a freshman, they were just getting into college and the speed of the college game, and it took them about half the season to figure it out,” Waite said. “Once they did, they got on a great run and they really realized what a great team they could be. The spring season helped them mature, and over the summer they worked really hard in our camp and playing a lot of beach volleyball, so, individually, they put the time in to make them good and strong this year.”And with so many returnees, Waite believes that his team possesses a close-knit relationship that most others do not and that will contribute to much of the team’s success. Wisconsin lost only starting opposite hitter Jill Odenthal and reserve outside hitter Marian Weidner from last season’s rotation.“[Having so many returnees is] huge,” Waite said. “We can start at a higher point when we walk in the gym in preseason and, automatically, we were playing as well as we were in our last match starting at the beginning of the year, so if we go from there and improve, they’re going to do some amazing stuff.”While the Badgers are ranked No. 10 in the nation, two Big Ten teams are still ranked ahead of them — Penn State and Minnesota at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively. Wisconsin has finished fourth in the conference in each of the past two seasons.Nevertheless, the Badgers have their eyes set on the conference crown.“As a team, obviously we’d love to win a Big Ten championship, and we talk about that all the time,” Waite said. “We’re ranked 10th in the country, but there’s two more teams in the Big Ten ranked above us in the top 10 nationally, so it’s going to be a battle not just with those teams, but with the next four or five teams below us, so it’s going to be exciting. I think the fans will have a great time watching this team this season. I really encourage a lot more students coming out. We’re going to have a student section … and the Field House is going to be a really, really exciting place to play.”The Badgers open their regular season Friday as they travel to Colorado Springs, Colo., to play in the Air Force Falcon Invitational. Wisconsin is set to play San Jose State and Weber State on the first day of action and will look to get back in the swing of things sooner rather than later.“The competition is pretty good,” Waite said. “These are teams we haven’t really seen before, so we have to get on the court and figure out [how] they play. We’ll have scouting reports on them, and we’ll start doing that into this week, so we’ll learn more about them then.”last_img

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