Oct. 28, 2013
MADISON, Wis. – For Wisconsin volleyball head coach Kelly Sheffield, his first season on the Badger bench has had its ups and downs. Last week was the perfect example as his team split in action at home, upsetting then-No. 7 Minnesota 3-1 on Oct. 23 before losing to Illinois, which receives votes in the national coaches’ poll, 3-1 on Sunday.
Sheffield addressed the media on Monday to talk about his team’s recent play.
The Badgers wrapped up the first half of the Big Ten Conference season tied for fourth place at 6-4 and open the second half of the Big Ten season on the road. No. 15 Wisconsin (17-5 overall) travels to Indiana (9-12, 1-9) on Friday for a 6 p.m. first serve from University Gym in Bloomington, Ind. On Saturday, UW takes on No. 16 Purdue (15-6, 6-4) in a battle of fourth-place teams. Match time is 6 p.m. from Holloway Gym in West Lafayette, Ind.
A complete transcription of Sheffield’s comments is below.
Opening statement: Last Wednesday, obviously coming up with a win against a really good, talented Minnesota team, back-to-back wins against top 10 teams. That was a great effort from our kids. I thought we obviously played really, really well.
And coming back yesterday against Illinois, losing to a really, really talented, well-coached Illinois team that probably has their backs against the wall quite a bit for an NCAA tournament bid.
It was a battle. In the three games that we lost, we lost by either two points or three points. We weren't able to close the sets out the way we need to. Game three we really put it on them but it came down to executing when the games were on line. That's something we've been really good at most of the year. We weren't great at it yesterday and it kind of got us.
I think our outside plays, it's getting better. I think our team's getting better. This is a tough conference, but Deme Morales and Ellen Chapman, I think those guys had really, really good weekends. Ball control was solid. Taylor Morey had a great weekend, her best weekend in the past month.
We're excited about this weekend, (starting the) second half of the Big Ten. And we've seen just about everybody and so now they've got tape on us. We've got tape on them. Like we told our team, you can see who is improving the most that second half.
We're excited about getting back at it and playing a really talented IU team, who is coming off a win against top-10 Michigan State and Purdue just beat Michigan and Nebraska. So those are two teams we beat the first round. We go back to their place. IU is coming off the biggest win of the year and probably no team other than Penn State that's hotter in our conference than what the Boilermakers are.
Does this road trip week – is it kind of a springboard you get a couple of big weeks at home coming up, is this a critical one starting off at second half starting off the Big Ten season?
I think so. They're all obviously critical, but, yeah, you get to this second half if you will. You want to get going. You want to try to find momentum whatever it is in conference and it's certainly tough in this league. But it's huge. We want to stay in the top third (or) top half of the conference. We want to try to move up and we've got those abilities.
We want to try to position ourselves are you a possible seeded team for the NCAA tournament. So every match along that is important. We want to finish as high as we can start of the second half I guess it starts this week.
Is the win/loss trend of late is that a reflection of the youth of the team or reflection of a tough schedule?
Probably both, to be fair. This is a tough league to get wins at and every team is beatable. Whether you're at home or on the road, you can beat every team and every team can beat you. You're not playing one a week, you're playing two in a couple of days, and, yeah, that can be really tough.
I don't think getting up for a match has been our problem. It's about executing. Our team's ready to go every night. That's one of the things that's impressed me about this group, they're really competitive and they're putting it all out there. Executing the game plan is something else. We haven't always been absolutely consistent with that, but it's not lack of effort.
Our youth, I mean we got one senior out there. Illinois, who we played yesterday, had one senior as well that was playing a significant role. So two young teams that makes it fun for the future. But we're learning. All of this stuff, dealing with success and how to handle that and how to be ready every single night. It's a work in progress. We're getting better and that's what we ask for as coaches.
Will Crystal Graff play again this season?
We're hoping. She had a procedure the other day and is back in the boots and hopefully we'll get her here the second part of the season. Hopefully we're getting Caroline Workman back, who might be our best server on the team. I think both of them are progressing, I think we're a couple of weeks, few more weeks from Crystal. Caroline, who knows, she's probably about ready to get starting in practices.
As far as major roles for Crystal, that would probably be difficult -- we're playing pretty well right now on the pin. We're really playing well on the pin. So I'm not so sure it's a save that's coming off the bench that's going to help us. It's added depth and she's been through this quite a bit and having another body. Yeah, we'd love to have her. We're not counting on her but we'll see.
Halfway point of the season, is the team where you expected them to be, maybe higher than your expectations?
We've had great moments. We've had great wins over really good teams. We're getting better. This team is really, really competitive. We're learning how to execute. It's a work in progress.
We've got our setter out there getting better all the time. Better connection with her hitters. She missed most of the preseason and first couple of weeks when we were really practicing. We're at a point where we're not getting a ton of practices in. It's a lot slower pace probably for most of the week right now, and especially when you're playing Wednesday (and) Saturday. Wednesday (and) Sunday makes it tough to string along some workouts.
We're getting better by watching film and maybe some walkthroughs, some slower paced things. We're probably a little bit further along than probably what I would have thought being honest going in. I think we've got as much room to improve as any team in the league.