After opening its spring season with drills at Marquette, the Wisconsin volleyball team continued competition Sunday afternoon, hosting Minnesota in the UW Field House. What was initially planned to be a full match was cut down to a three-set scrimmage due to opponent injuries. Despite the event's brevity, the crowd of more than 500 people was given a good taste of what to expect from the NCAA runner-up Badgers in the 2014-15 season.
The match featured a mix of familiar and new, as redshirt freshman Taylor Fricano and freshman Tori Blake both saw ample playing time. Sophomore Taylor Morey looked a natural in her role as libero, taking over for senior Annemarie Hickey, who coached from the sideline and assisted in drills before the match.
Blake, who saw action in just 22 sets last fall, switched off with junior Dominique Thompson and fellow freshman Haleigh Nelson at middle blocker. During the team's four-month break, Blake seems to have gained more control as a hitter, and fans can expect to see more of her in the upcoming season as she gains experience working with 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Lauren Carlini.
Time plays an integral role in the relationship between a setter and middle, allowing for their chemistry to build both on and off the court. This was apparent in the progression of Nelson through her first season, as she improved from one kill in her first match in the Cardinal and White to averaging 1.74 kills per set on a .318 attack percentage for her rookie season. In the same way, look for Blake and Carlini's on-the-court communication to progress as the pair works together throughout the spring and offseason.
Another new face on the court was Fricano, the 6-4 right side/outside hitter, who saw playing time after taking a redshirt during the 2013 season. Along with junior Ellen Chapman, Fricano stands as the team's tallest player. The two will complement one another nicely at the net with Chapman on the outside and Fricano on the right. The Badgers finished just seventh in the Big Ten with 2.33 blocks per set last season, and height may be a new defensive weapon for the team in the upcoming season.
One very familiar aspect of the scrimmage was the Badgers' signature aggressive serving. Head Coach Kelly Sheffield, 2013 Volleyball Magazine National Coach of the Year, has emphasized in the past that players have "been given the green light to be very aggressive" at the service line. This trend continued into spring competition, as UW garnered aces from multiple players including Chapman, who led the team in aces per set (0.23) in 2013. The crowd also saw a new face at the line as Nelson served for the first time on her birthday. Whether this was a birthday gift from Coach Sheffield or the start of a new trend for the 6-3 middle blocker is yet to be determined. Morey also made a serving transition, moving from a long float serve to a jump serve during the scrimmage.
Wisconsin will continue spring competition on Wednesday, April 16 as it hosts Marquette for a full match. Competition will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the UW Field House. Admission is free to all with several members of the team available afterwards for a Q&A.
Playing for the first time since their 2013 NCAA runner-up finish, the Wisconsin volleyball team opened the spring season with drills at Marquette on Wednesday. It didn't seem like it has been nearly four months since the last time the Badgers were on the court as most of the faces were very familiar.
The Badgers traveled 13 players to Marquette with nine
seeing playing time. The injured brigade of Victoria Ito, Kt Kvas, Julie
Mikaelsen and Caroline Workman didn't play though all four have been
practicing this spring.
After the hour-and-a-half drive down I94, the team arrived at the Al McGuire Center about 6 p.m. While the warm-ups were shorter, they looked the same as last fall - peppering with a partner and then stretching followed by some hitting.
Coach Kelly Sheffield, the 2013 Volleyball Magazine National Coach of the Year, spent some time while the teams were warming up, chatting with new Marquette head coach Ryan Theis. The two are old Ohio buddies as Theis was the coach at Ohio University when Sheffield was at Dayton. Did you know Kelly recommended Theis for the Golden Eagles job?
The two spent nearly two hours playing six-on-six volleyball, though with a modified scoring format.
Theis called the first drill - each team served 15 times with each serve being followed by a setter pass then a free ball. The Badgers won three out of four times and had their most success when Deme Morales was in the front row. The 5-7 left-side hitter continued to impress fans with her leaping and hitting ability.
Sheffield took the second drill with the teams playing 26-6. The Badgers had to score three straight in order to get one big point while Marquette scored normally. The Golden Eagles won a tight first contest 26-5 while the scoring was reversed in the second with Wisconsin winning 26-3.
Sheffield experimented with several different line ups on the night, freely substituting players during the action. Courtney Thomas played on the right front and left front while Ellen Chapman saw time in the back row. Redshirt freshman Taylor Fricano also saw lots of action - mainly on the right side but also on the left front. Fans will be impressed with her jumping ability this spring and fall.
The Badgers didn't lose much at libero with the graduation of Annemarie Hickey as Taylor Morey held her own in the back row.
All in all, it was a successful first outing for the Badgers. They were a little rusty at times, especially on the block, and the changing line-ups also affected the team communication. The goals are high for the team this fall and lots of hard work this spring will help them reach those goals.
6. Whoa... Getting the full Cali experience. Earthquake in Anaheim. #Fieldof8-- Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) March 29, 2014
this week's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy discusses the Badgers tough schedule and their first home series of the 2014 season.
It's opening weekend in Madison! It's exciting to be home in
Wisconsin, after playing on the road six of the last seven weekends. We've been to Texas, California, Tampa,
Miami, Louisville, and Chicago. We're
15-12 right now, with big ranked wins over #8 Arizona and #23 Northwestern.
This season has been filled with adversity, facing the toughest schedule in school history. We've played #4 Florida twice, #17 Texas A&M twice, #5 Washington, #11 Arizona State, #8 Arizona, and #23 Northwestern three times. We still have eight ranked games ahead against #6 Michigan, #15 Minnesota, and #19 Nebraska. At least two of our games against ranked opponents will be at home, when we host #19 Nebraska here on April 30th.
We'll face off against a tough Iowa team this weekend, as we
get into the heart of Big Ten play. Being
from the Midwest, it's easy to appreciate how special Big Ten softball is. What an amazing conference; great academics,
great facilities and exciting rivalries.
It's an honor to play legacy programs like Iowa, with their 16 NCAA
tournament appearances, 4 trips to the Women's College World Series, and 31
NCAA tournament wins. Iowa is the type
of successful, legacy softball program that we're working to build here at
Wisconsin. They have so much history when
they step on the field, with 27 All-Americans.
We know playing opponents like this is never easy. Iowa has competed in Madison 8 times, and they've only lost one series. The Hawkeyes are 12-3 all-time here at Wisconsin, which is an 80 percent win percentage. Our goal is to start evening those numbers out. We're working to make strides, to improve and to grow. One game at a time, we're making progress, we're changing history, and we're building success. It's a tough task to change history, but this senior class is certainly up for the challenge.
Hey Badger Fans!
It has been a long season for the Badgers in Madison, and although it didn't end on the high we had hoped, I could not be more proud of my teammates. The determination, hard work, and relentless spirit of my teammates propelled us to successes many people doubted when we set out on our journey together last September.
It is a bittersweet ending for many of my teammates, in large part the senior class. While we are happy with our four years here at Wisconsin and looking forward to bright futures, it is difficult to leave behind a team that has meant so much to us over the years. The team this year has been like a family on and off the ice. The spirit and kindness of every girl in our locker room made packing our bags together one final time a difficult and emotional moment.
On behalf of my teammates I want to thank all the fans in Wisconsin and beyond who have supported us throughout the season, and for the seniors throughout our entire careers. It seems like just yesterday some of us were pulling on that Badger jersey for the first time, and my hope is that the future Badgers recognize the honor and pride that comes with bearing the motion W on their chest--it truly goes by too fast.
While many memories have been created over the years, I will always remember the pride that accompanies being part of such a rich and historic tradition as a Badger athlete. The team was disappointed last weekend, but if I know anything about my teammates, it is that they will never quit. The seniors are moving on, but there is a fresh group of talent being added to the roster next year and a solid core returning that will do whatever it takes to continue bringing hardware back to Madison.
Lastly, I want to thank our families and all the people back home. I have said it before, and sincerely mean it when I say that none of us would be where we are today without the love and support of those who first gave us the chance to chase our dreams. The coaches who pushed us when we were little and the parents who drove us to the rink and waited for us until it was time to make the drive back home are the reason we are where we are today. My parents said to me after the last game, "Thank you for all the memories, it's been a great run." I want to take this opportunity on behalf of my teammates to thank not only my parents, but also all the other parents of my teammates who have made this journey one that I will remember for the rest of my life.
It has been a fun ride Badger fans, and while I am sad it is coming to an end, I look forward in the coming days or weeks to revealing the next blogger for the Wisconsin women's hockey team. Until next time, thanks for reading, and ON WISCONSIN!
4. Get loose #Fieldof16# pic.twitter.com/1YebQPrsNa-- Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) March 27, 2014
Wednesday was the Badgers' introduction to the Honda Center, the site of UW's Sweet 16 game vs. Baylor on Thursday night. But before they got to step on the court, the players and coaching staff met with the media to talk about the matchup with Baylor. The complete transcript from the podium sessions with Coach Ryan, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson can be found here.
In addition, here are some quotes from the Badgers' open locker room:
Sam Dekker on defending Baylor's big men: "Me and Frank [Kaminsky] will probably have to share the duties inside on those two early on. It doesn't matter who we have [to defend] as long as we are physical. We need to out-tough them. We can't play weaker on those guys, otherwise they will eat you alive."
Josh Gasser on Baylor's strong play in March: "They are playing really well right now. You have to come out with a lot of energy and match their intensity. It will be a physical game with their bigs down low. We have to come out right from the start."
Bronson Koenig on breaking down Baylor film: "Obviously we saw a lot of length and athleticism out of them. They are quick in closing out on the shooters in their zone."
Also check out our complete photo gallery of the Badgers' day at the Honda Center.
28. Nigel, Sam, Trae meeting w/media right now. Nigel on whether he likes seeing upsets: "Personally I fear upsets." pic.twitter.com/MZ5AJr5CXJ-- Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) March 21, 2014
24. Another round of wake up calls for Ben Eckburg this a.m. You can never underestimate the value of team managers #Fieldof32-- Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) March 22, 2014
23. Nothing like a police escort for the 3 block drive from the hotel to the arena. #Fieldof32-- Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) March 22, 2014
18. Shoot around: the only place on Earth you will witness Evan Anderson drain a 3 off the dribble while coming off a screen #Fieldof32-- Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) March 22, 2014
2. Oregon going with what they refer to as "Apple Green" uniforms. Ducks are 1-3 in these fits #Fieldof32-- Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) March 23, 2014