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New faces add depth for 2014 Badgers

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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.

Badger Blog: Back home in Madison

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In 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.      

Packer's Perspective: End of the Road

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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!

-- Madison

 

Packer's Perspective: Frozen Four Bound

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Hey Badger Fans!

A big thank you to all those who came out and supported us this past weekend as we battled Harvard in the NCAA quarter finals. The team was blown away when we hit the ice for the start of the game and the crowd erupted. The atmosphere and energy in the building was amazing and unlike anything we have experienced yet in our new home and we are very grateful to all those who helped us from the other side of the glass.

The team was very pleased with our effort Saturday night and it was a special moment for the seniors to get a win in our final game on home ice. This week is sure to fly by quickly as we will practice the next few days and then head out early Wednesday for the Frozen Four. The team plans to prepare for the upcoming weekend the same way we have all season, and is excited for the opportunity to face off against Minnesota Friday night.

There are a number of banquets set to take place along with a few other events, but the sole focus of our team is the game Saturday night and working harder than we have all season to achieve our ultimate goal. I am proud of my teammates for all the hard work that has been put in this season. There were a lot of people who were skeptical about us being placed so highly along the way, but we battled hard Saturday night, earning the right to play this weekend and gaining confidence along the way.

The game Friday night is something we have looked forward too all year, now the time has come to prepare and go to work. We are proud of ourselves for reaching the tournament, but also recognize simply making the trip is not the goal we set for ourselves last September.

I encourage all those who cannot make the trip to tune in to the various outlets that will be available to act the action this weekend. It is set to be some of the best collegiate hockey this season and will be something hockey fans do not want to miss.

Again, my teammates and I want to thank all our fans and the community for being supportive throughout the season, and on behalf of the senior class, thank you to all those who have come out to cheer us on throughout our Badger career. We have traveled all across the United States, and there are no fans louder or more loyal than those who come out in Madison. Thank you also to our families who have been supportive not only throughout this season, but since day one, we share this journey with you! Be sure to check back in throughout the week as I will have a few more posts and some special interviews with teammates as we head out in search of our ultimate goal at the 2014 Frozen Four! Until next time, thanks for reading, and ON WISCONSIN!! 

- Madison


Packer's Perspective: Ready for Harvard

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Packer's Perspective: Time for NCAAs

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Packer's Perspective: Playoff Edition

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Hey Badger Fans!

The time is here! Its playoffs, the best time of the season, and the team is more excited than ever to hit the ice tonight and get one game under our belt. I caught up with a few teammates about the game, getting their thoughts on heading into playoffs, and for freshman forward Sydney McKibbon, what her thoughts were heading into her first set of college playoffs ever.

"I wouldn't say that I'm nervous, but more anxious to get the games going. This is the best time of the year to be playing hockey," McKibbon said. "When you get into playoff time anything can happen and I think that's what makes it so exciting. Every team starts over again and no one is guaranteed anything. I am looking forward to the energy we are going to have in LaBahn this weekend with the band and all the fans."

Sophomore forward Erika Sowchuk also agreed about the exciting games heading into the weekend.

"I am looking forward to the intensity," Sowchuk said, "every game is a nail biter and every team is putting it all on the line. We need to compete for the whole game and show a lot of tenacity."

One final teammate I caught up with was Katy Josephs. A key right-winger on a line with Blayre Turnbull and Brittany Ammerman, who often goes unrecognized, is essential to the teams success this weekend, and she fully recognizes the effort that will be necessary for the team to advance to the WCHA playoffs.

"I am looking forward to seeing our tam give it all we've got," Josephs said. "Everyone knows that now it's do or die and the intensity of every game will go up for our team as well as for other teams. It's always fun to see what happens during playoffs because there will be teams that make it to tournaments that you don't expect. It makes for a fun and exciting couple of weeks."

The team can all agree on two things: the weekend will be full of intensity and nothing is guaranteed. The team knows that we need to bring 100% each night for 60 minutes in order to advance on in playoffs, and we need to focus on playing our game and doing the little things that have helped us to find success up to this point in the season.

"In order to be successful this weekend we need to play the way we've been playing all year," McKibbon said. "We need to come out fast to set the tone for the series this weekend and play a consistent 60 minutes. I think that if everyone plays their role and works hard we will be very successful."

Josephs agrees that we need to stick to our game and not worry ourselves with changing too much heading into the weekend.

"I think as a team we just have to keep doing what we have been all year which is playing and competing as hard as we can but also having fun doing it," Josephs said. "I think one of the biggest reasons we've been successful this year is because everyone looks forward to coming to the rink every day with a positive attitude. This results in a strong work ethic where everyone is pushing themselves to be better."

The team hits the ice tonight at 7 p.m. to face off for the first game of the series against Minnesota State. We hope to see all the fans out and cheering us to victory as we continue on our journey to the ultimate goal. If you like Badger Hockey, this will be a series you don't want to miss!

Until next time, thanks for reading, and On Wisconsin!

- Madison


Packer's Perspective: It's Playoff Time

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Hey Badger Fans!

It has been a while since the last post, and a lot has happened for the Badger squad. First, I would like to thank all those who came out and supported the team as we played in front of 13,573 fans at Fill the Bowl. It was a great experience to shatter the attendance record once again, and it was an honor for the senior class to be able to do it in the Kohl Center in front of our home fans where our journey began back four years ago.

Last weekend the team was in Mankato. There was a bad storm that hit up in Minnesota Thursday afternoon, so we loaded the bus up late Wednesday night and got in to Mankato at about 2 in the morning on Thursday. The team was able to sleep in before we headed over as a group to Applebee's to watch the USA and Canada Olympic Women's Hockey Gold Medal Game. There was quite the tension between the Canadians and Americans around the tables, but it was a hard fought game, and we are proud of all our Badger alumni regardless of the outcome. It was a fun atmosphere and a great way to bond as a team. After the game we made our way over to the rink for a practice, before returning back to the hotel for dinner.

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Friday morning the team woke up had a team skate and then watched another battle between USA and Canada, this time it was the men's hockey teams squaring off. Again, the Canadians were the happier group leaving the room, but it was again a fun experience for the team. Our game that night was a hard fought battle, and we came out on top 5-1. The team came out fast and battled from the start and we were happy to get the first win on the road, not to mention the two textbook breakaway goals back to back that were scored by Blayre Turnbull (oh and both were short handed!).

Saturday morning we woke up and watched the men's bronze medal game. After the game we got some coffee as a team, watched film to improve from the night before. The team had one goal in mind, to finish the regular season on a positive note, and we were successful getting a 3-1 victory. After the game we loaded up the bus and headed back to Madison, but not before stopping off to grab some frozen yogurt. It is extremely rare for the bus to stop for any reason, and the team was pumped when we pulled in to the yogurt bar. After getting back to Madison around 10:30 p.m. we headed home to get some much needed rest.

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The team had a recovery day Sunday to get ready for the upcoming stretch and we are excited for the journey that lies ahead. Monday was the first practice of the post season, and the team was full of energy. The post season is when the real excitement begins, and we are looking forward to grinding it out in the hunt for the opportunity to play for a championship. The post season starts this weekend as we host Minnesota State Friday night, and we hope all those who can make it come out to support us. It should be a great atmosphere and the team is feeling good about where we are and the potential we have heading in to playoffs. Crazy things happen when playoffs come around, and we are looking forward to playing our best hockey of the season when it matters most.

Thank you to all those in Madison and back home who have supported us up to this point in the journey! The team is getting ready for a tough couple of weeks, and we are confident in our ability to compete amongst the best teams in the country!

Check back in at the end of the week to get anticipations from players about what to expect heading into playoffs, and how a few of the freshmen plan to prepare for their first college playoff experience!

Until next time, thanks for reading and On Wisconsin!

 - Madison

 

Packer's Perspective: Border Battle Part II

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Hey Badger Fans!

The time is here, and the team has never been more prepared than we are now to step up to the plate and take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The team has worked hard all week to study film, execute plays, and fine tune systems, but more importantly, we have been preparing all season to take on the number one ranked team in front of our home crowd. This is the biggest series of the season so far, and we are excited for the opportunity to play at home and finish the regular season off at home with two great games.

We have had a great week of practice, and everyone is feeling good heading into the weekend. The team is looking forward to the opportunity and know we are prepared to play the best six periods of hockey yet this year Friday and Saturday night.

When talking with junior forward Blayre Turnbull, she was excited, pumped up, but most of all focused heading into the weekend.

"There are a few things I am looking forward to this weekend," Turnbull said. "I always look forward to playing the Gophers, but this weekend is especially special since we will get to play in the Kohl Center (Saturday night) and hopefully break a record. Another thing I am looking forward to is having my family in town. There are few opportunities for them to get here throughout the season so it will be great to have them in the stands this weekend."

Sophomore power house defenseman Courtney Burke had similar emotions about the upcoming series.

"Just playing in a rivalry against Minnesota is always a game we get up for and it's even that the games are in front of all our friends and family," Burke said. "Both players, like most of the team, are looking forward to having friends and family here this weekend, but also recognize that what goes on inside the glass is our primary focus."

This weekend has a great deal of activity, from Senior Night Friday to Fill the Bowl Saturday, but the team knows what is most important is getting the much needed wins to make these moments that much more memorable.

"We need to focus on playing Badger hockey," Burke said. "Play the whole 60 minutes each night and out work the other team. Those are some of our strengths and we need to stick to them all weekend."

Turnbull could not agree more that hard work and sticking to what we have done all season is what will make the difference for us this weekend.

"For our team to be successful it is going to be super important to stick to our game," Turnbull said. "If we play well defensively like we have been lately, things will fall into place offensively." It is no secret that the Gophers have a number of threats offensively, but sticking to our game and taking care of our end will lead to opportunities for us to capitalize in the offensive zone.

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This weekend is set to be the best series of the season. With both teams coming off long winning streaks, and the competitive nature of both squads, the games are sure to be a fast pace battle from start to finish. We are looking forward to the puck drop Friday night, and going to work as we battle the number one team in our own barn.

The puck drops Friday night at 7 p.m. and we hope to see all our fans out to cheer us on. For those who can't make the game Friday, be sure to clear your calendar for Saturday night 7 p.m. as we will play for the first time in two years in the Kohl Center, looking to break the NCAA attendance record for a third time! Come on out and cheer us to victory as we continue on our journey to the finish line this season!

Until next time, thanks for reading, and ON WISCONSIN!!

-Madison Packer

Packer's Perspective: Back From the Buckeye State

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ON WISCONSIN