Aug. 17, 2012
MADISON, Wis. – After a little more than a week of practice, the Wisconsin volleyball team is excited to get on the court and actually play. Fans can see the Badgers on Saturday when UW hosts its annual Fan Fest and Cardinal vs. White scrimmage in the UW Field House. Events begin at 1 p.m. and admission is free.
“The Fan Fest is going to be a blast especially with the kids getting on the court with the team,” said UW head coach Pete Waite. ”This is a chance for our fans to see the team now compared to where they were last year.
“We started so many young players a year ago and they’ve all matured and are doing better things. I think we’re running a faster offense, playing better defense so they’ll see some good things. “
The Fan Fest features on and off-the-court activities for children from 1-2 p.m. Waite will answer questions from the crowd at 2 p.m. while the team warms up for the intrasquad scrimmage, which begins at 2:30 p.m.
Waite returns 13 letterwinners, including five starters plus the libero, from last year’s 16-16 team. Leading the way is senior middle blocker Alexis Mitchell, who is a two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten pick. Joining Mitchell as returning starters are junior Annemarie Hickey at libero and junior Dominique Thompson at middle blocker. Sophomores Ellen Chapman (outside hitter) and Courtney Thomas (setter) both earned Big Ten All-Freshman team honors in 2011. Senior Bailey Reshel and sophomore Crystal Graff split playing time at the other outside hitter position last season.
“I’ve been pleased with the way we’re practicing,” says Waite. “I think because we returned so many players, we started at a higher level. The freshmen have come in and blended in well. Overall, we’ve been able to move faster through things but at the same time get the intensity going, getting ready for the first matches.”
The intensity has also been assisted by new assistant coaches Dan and Coley Pawlikowski. The duo coached together at Northern Illinois the last three seasons.
“Dan and Coley have brought some great energy, some new drills and a different vision of what they are seeing in players,” says Waite. “Any time you get more people coming in from the outside and being able to analyze them, it helps.”
With so many experienced returnees, the Badgers have been able to concentrate on specific areas early in practice.
“Our serve and serve receive has been huge. We’ve put a lot of hours into that,” says Waite. “If you have that, you can be in any game. We will move forward to some other things but then we’ll move back to serve and serve receive.“