Oct. 14, 2013
MADISON, Wis. - For head volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield, his first year coaching in the Big Ten Conference has been pretty much what he expected. Sheffield talked to the media on Monday as his Badgers (15-3 overall, 4-2 Big Ten) return home for four straight Big Ten matches.
No. 15 Wisconsin hosts No. 16 Michigan (12-5, 2-4) on Friday at 7 p.m. in the UW Field House. The Badgers take on fifth-ranked and Big Ten-leading Michigan State (17-1, 6-0) on Sunday at 1 p.m. live on the Big Ten Network. Both matches are in the UW Field House.
A complete transcript of his comments is below.
Opening Statement: Obviously, a good win for us on Friday against a top 15 team on the road. It was a grind. I'm not sure that we played our best volleyball that match. We had some untimely service errors that we had to battle through as well.
But to go into a hostile place and not be on top of our game and still find a way to grind that out, I think it's something that you certainly don't want to depend on but winning on the road is hard enough. To be able to do it when you weren't on top of your game, at least offensively, that was great.
Defensively was another story. I thought we played really, really well defensively and in the backcourt.
The next night against Penn State and having to go there, we had some nice leads in game one and game three, and we weren't able to close either of those things out. We played probably better than what we did on Friday night. I think we walked out of that match, I think our players are a little bit -- they're a little ticked off, and that's good. I think they're expecting to beat their opponent, and that's exactly what you're wanting.
We learned that we're closer, but we still have some work to do to get over some of the big boys or the traditional big boys.
I don't know what the stats are right now, but I think we're No. 1 defense for opponents' hitting percentage in the conference. Our backcourt is playing at a really high level. Annemarie Hickey, Taylor Morey, Deme Morales, Lauren (Carlini) and Courtney (Thomas), I think, are really doing some great things in the backcourt.
We're excited about being home. We've been on the road almost the entire season and to get back home and play Michigan and Michigan State, two really, really quality teams, we're really excited to get back in the Field House.
Coach, looking at the schedule, its ranked team, ranked team, ranked team. The first season of doing this, does the grind of the Big Ten schedule surprise you at all about just how good everybody is each game out?
I don't know if it's a surprise we play this many ranked teams, they probably hired the wrong person here. You're not doing your homework. It's been a monster of a conference for a while.
The one thing is that's different here is that you really, really have to move past whatever just happened really, really quickly.
I think in some other leagues -- and certainly the ones I've been at -- you take it on the chin or you're not playing as well as what you're wanting to play, you can stay with that match a little bit longer. You can study that longer. You can really get your team to really understand what happened a little bit longer.
It's once that match is over, win or lose, you have to be ready to move on to the next one because you've got another tough one in front of you and there's good and bad with that. I think, if you're a competition junkie like I am, it doesn't get any better than this conference, and we're excited about two more.
You're right, six matches in a row against top 20 teams, that's a bear.
You've beaten a few ranked teams and you've lost to a few ranked teams. As of right now, where do you guys think you sit in the grand scheme of things or the hierarchy of things in the Big Ten?
Every week it can change. I think where we're at is that we're a pretty good team. Defensively, we are really, really good. We'll get after you. I think our serving and passing game is really good. Again, we're going to go after people.
Offensively, we're a little bit challenged, a little bit at the nets. That's probably not our strength compared to some other people.
I think we're a team that's capable of beating anybody on any given night. I think our players believe that, and we're a team that's got some work to do to be where we want to be and that's Big Ten champs.
That might be the toughest road trip to split. For your first year, how young your club is, the injuries you went through, that's a pretty good accomplishment, isn't it?
That's probably fair, yeah. Ohio State, that's a tough place to play, and they're really good. And to go in there and win that first one, you feel a little bit better, but then you sit there and say, `All right, let's get two.'
So you're not sitting there thinking, `Well, thank goodness we split,' or, `Hey, we got one, let's relax.' You sit there and say, `All right, let's go for some more.'
But, yeah, there's some weekend when you go on the road and you split ... You're certainly trying to win every one of them, but there's that element of saying, Okay, we didn't get whacked around here during the week and we got ourselves one. Let's go home, and let's try to take care of our home court.
Coach, how is Crystal Graff doing? She's not spending too much time on the court. Is she healthy or near?
It's a work in progress. Crystal, like a lot of our kids, she fought. She's a warrior. I said she came back a little bit earlier than what -- probably what she was ready for NC State. There's no way that we walk out of that tournament 3-0 without her.
She knows that. Her teammates know that, and was really, really critical against two teams that are in the top 50. NC State and VCU are both top-50 programs. We needed those wins, and we needed her out there because of the health situation.
The down side of that is it probably pushed her back a little bit from being 100 percent. Now that we've got some other people that are back and able to go, we're going to make sure that she is back all the way before we put her out there on the court.
She still has probably a couple more weeks to go. We'd love to get her out there. It's just killing her that she's not participating too much in practice. We're hoping that second half of the Big Ten season that we'll get -- we'll be able to call her number a little bit more.