Sept. 25, 2012
MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin volleyball team (13-2, 1-1) welcome in two of the top teams in the Big Ten Conference this weekend as No. 1 Penn State (12-1, 2-0) and No. 22 Ohio State (10-4, 1-1) come to Madison this weekend. The Badgers take on the Nittany Lions on Friday at 7 p.m., while the Badgers and Buckeyes face off at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Both matches are in the UW Field House.
Head coach Pete Waite talked to the media on Monday after his team’s Big Ten-opening road trip at Northwestern and Illinois as well as this weekend’s matches.
A complete transcript of his remarks is below.
Opening Statement: I was pleased with our play over the weekend at Northwestern. We actually made a pretty big comeback in game three, I think we were down 15 to 20 came back to win it 26-24 and won the fourth. That was a pretty good road win for us. I think that showed the team has come together and is pretty gritty and will fight to the end. That was a good one for us.
At Illinois yesterday, I thought we had a good shot at them. That was a team that was in the final national championship match last year, and we nearly got them in five games but fell a little bit short.
We still have some things to work on this week in practice obviously and have a great challenge ahead of us here with Penn State coming to town. After the polls come out today, they might be the No. 1 ranked team. I don't know. They’re going to be in the top two or three for sure, but they're very strong again and Ohio State is a very strong team.
I like what I'm seeing. They're progressing well. Big Ten's here.
Is Penn State, Penn State, or are they different in any way?
Penn State is Penn State. A year ago, they were a very young team just like we were. Just like we have matured, they have matured. They’re making less errors. They've got new people in the lineup. They're big, just like they've always been. There's not a small player in the lineup.
For us, we've got to play real consistent ball, real aggressive, real confident to go after them. Just like we did here last year. We were able to get them on our home court, but they're definitely a very physical team.
What do you sense from your team from coming close against a team like Illinois that you mentioned is so good that it was, ‘Oh, we just happy to have been close’ or ‘we really can be something from how close we were?’
Or they're just mad they missed a chance to get a road win against Illinois, which is a very good team. Going against the team they were very confident. Watching video they were very confident. Having gotten the win two days before at Northwestern helped them a lot. Illinois is still a strong team, no doubt about it. Even in the fourth game against Illinois, we were down pretty big in that game and we came back. A lot of people thought you could put a fork in us right then and be over and done in four, but we came back and pushed them to a fifth. That says a lot about the determination of this team, but still, there are small areas you’ve got to be more consistent late in the game as in any sport to get the wins.
Looking at your schedule, I know you have nothing to do with it, but you go on the road for two, including one at Illinois, and you get these two. Then again, I guess you could look at the following week, and you've got Michigan State, Michigan, and then Nebraska. So it's pretty much every weekend, right?
I think what you're describing is two ranked teams coming and I'm thinking, well, that's pretty much the rest of the Big Ten season. You have ranked teams almost every time. … the number is much fewer who are not ranked. We're right there on the brink as far as Northwestern was getting votes earlier in the season. Illinois was way up there. They got some great wins against a team like Texas, which was a top-10 team. They're still in there, and they're going to keep getting stronger.
It's just going to get better and better, more exciting for our fans there’s no doubt. Our players have to step up. It's what makes you better too. You play smaller school teams during the preconference play, and you get challenged and learn some things. But you don't really find out about yourselves until you're against the Big Ten teams because they're just all bigger, faster, stronger in every way. Penn State has just across the board, you got 6-3 to 6-6 across the board most of the time.
But we're up to the task. I think our defense is solidifying, and they're excited about playing. We're not afraid about playing these teams coming up.
How do you go against a team that is so large up front, without giving away your game plan obviously. But how do you attack a team like that?
You've got to beat them with ball handling, with speed. Especially the ball handling part because, no matter what team has tall players, they're not always great defensively and in serve receive. You've got to beat them with a great serve and then attacking them.
Sometimes that big block up there can also be used as a great target. We teach our players and every coach does to attack block and the edges of the block, the top of the block, the seams of the block. And then once it defends off the side of a block, it's very hard to defend. Where if you try to avoid the block and go straight to the floor, there's usually a defender there waiting around that big block.
When they have big blocks up there, there's less court to have to dig behind as opposed to a smaller block. It's very easy for the defense. So really working off the block is much better. That's where you want to attack.
Could you talk about the importance of the next two weeks, not just from playing games, playing matches at home standpoint, but also getting things straightened out in practice.
You go from week to week and learn from each previous weekend what you need to work on. I would still say this week we're working on some of the things we worked on last week. Just every team you play brings different things.
Illinois had a 6-6 right side that was phenomenal - very hard to stop. So we focused more on defending the right-side attack.
Penn State has got a lot of great left-side attackers, so we might focus on that a little bit more. Either way, you're still challenging your team the best you can to fix the small flaws you might have, solidify things, and just especially against these teams. At times just have guys in practice that are bringing it the highest speed possible on the serves and the attacks because it's just bouncing off you if you're not ready for those.
Are you a good ball handling team and a good defensive team?
I think we're getting a lot better. We're a lot better than we were last year. And I said that last time I sat up here. Annemarie Hickey, number one, is leading the team in digs right now. (She is) very strong (and) getting stronger all the time. In serve, receive, and passing, DemeMorales (and) Caroline Workman (are) very strong, Crystal Graff in that group. So we're getting stronger and deeper all the time.
Penn State brings a couple of jump servers that are best in the country, and they're phenomenal, just rockets across the net. That kind of thing can put you on your heels and keep you out of your offense. That's the whole thing, trying to get that first serve from that player done and taken care of and try to score inside out so she’s done and doesn’t get any runs. That's the biggest thing, and they rely on her to get those.