Wisconsin hopes for repeat of last year

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first_imgDEREK MONTGOMERY/Herald photoTwo down, four to go for the NCAA championship.But the UW volleyball team surely is taking it one match at a time, right? They haven’t even begun to think ahead to the Elite Eight, right?Nope. The No. 11-seeded Badgers, who play sixth seed Notre Dame Friday night in the Sweet 16 in College Station, Texas, have declared their intent to make it to the quarterfinals, and perhaps further into the tournament.Of course, according to sophomore libero Jocelyn Wack, the team refuses to overlook the Fighting Irish, but will be disappointed if Wisconsin fails to set up a date with either third seed Washington or unseeded Big Ten foe Purdue in the Elite Eight.”We’re planning on playing Friday and Saturday night. That’s what we’re thinking going into this weekend,” Wack said.UW head coach Pete Waite simply attributes the amount of attention paid to Saturday night’s match to smart preparation.”We’ll scout all the teams in the regional, knowing we have to play Notre Dame, hoping that we’ll be in the next night’s match against Purdue or Washington, so you have to know about them,” he explained. “It’s not really looking ahead. It’s having a good plan.”Senior outside hitter Aubrey Meierotto said the Badgers have started to relax in practices with more emphasis on game-play than individual drills.”I think Friday, we probably didn’t play as well as we would have liked, but we definitely picked it up on Saturday, and it’s been a good few days of practice,” she said. “We’ve been doing a lot of scrimmaging, a lot of game-like situations.””There are times earlier in the season when you’re not doing that much play,” Waite added. “But at this point, we just want them flowing well together and feeling good about being on the court with each other.”As a team that has boasted strong blocking all season, Wisconsin will see another team of its size and caliber in the Fighting Irish.Notre Dame holds a slight edge in blocks per game (3.56 to 3.51), led by senior All-American Lauren Brewster, who averages 3.87 kills and 1.60 blocks per game. Brewster is the leader of five Irish averaging at least 2.6 kills”We go at it the same way we would as for a Big Ten match just because the teams in the Big Ten are really tall, really athletic and those are the types of girls we’ll be playing this weekend,” Meierotto said. “So I think playing in such a competitive conference is going to help us this weekend.”Waite, who coached the Badgers to a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame in the second round of last year’s tournament, said the Irish have made a few moves in the last year to emerge as a contender.”They returned six starters, so they haven’t changed much as far as personnel, but they’ve done some lineup changes where they have some people in different rotations,” he said. “It’s just a different look than a lot of teams play. But, physically, they’re the same team.”Wack said the Badgers feel confident in their ability to stick to playing UW volleyball to try to beat a similarly built team.”It seems that their middles just aren’t quite as quick off the ground, so our plan is to beat their middles and open up the outsides a lot and get some outside lines,” Wack said. “Since the [UW blockers] have been playing so well all season, you have to think that the other team would have to respect our middles and track them, which will hopefully open up [our outside hitters].”Wack will be playing with added personal incentive this weekend. If she gets 10 digs Friday, she will tie the record for most consecutive double-dig matches; therefore, with a Badger win, she could set the record this season instead of waiting until next season.The UW libero said that even during the heat of the tournament she has been able to appreciate the culmination of her chase for 63-straight double-dig matches.”I’m not worried about [the record], but I do notice it more now that it is so close, and everyone’s counting on it,” she said.Overall, Waite is confident with the way his players have prepared for this weekend, on the doorstep of the Final Four.”I think they’re playing hard in practices and intense in matches, but they’re also playing loose,” Waite said. “I think they’re feeling very good on the court, and that’s a good sign, that they’re not getting stressed out about anything.”They’re very determined to play at a high level and get a couple of wins here.”last_img

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