Volleyball trying to keep postseason hopes alive in Evanston

first_imgDespite the final score, the Wisconsin volleyball team actually played the No. 6 ranked Illini very closely Wednesday night.The Badgers (14-10, 4-10) were swept in three sets by Illinois (20-3, 12-1), but each set was close. There were an astounding 28 total tie scores.Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week Julie Mikaelsen led the team with a career high 16 kills. Her emergence since the middle of the season when she was benched has given the Badgers offense quite the boost.Illinois did a great job on Allison Wack, who had led the Badgers in kills the previous four matches.“We know from the past they have good pin-side blockers, but they have a good libero too,” Wack said.Wisconsin also played the Illini tough in a 3-1 set loss at the UW Fieldhouse Sept. 29, but the team knew it would be difficult to replicate that kind of success on the road.“They had an off night when they played here, and [we knew] that wasn’t gonna happen again,” Wack said.Fortunately for the Badgers, they will be forced to quickly put this setback behind them as they travel to Evanston, Ill. today to take on the Northwestern Wildcats.Northwestern is no slouch either, sitting at No. 24 nationally.The Wildcats are known for being scrappy, never giving up on a play that is seemingly dead.They defeated the Badgers handily in what might have been their worst home showing of the year, a 3-0 sweep Oct. 1.At Monday’s practice, head coach Pete Waite remained confident his team could pull off an NCAA bid if they achieved a split every weekend remaining in the season. For them to do that, a win against Northwestern is a must.“The progress we’ve seen has been good, the win against Michigan State was nice. But, again, were hitting a lot of Top 25 teams as we approach the second half, sometimes on the road,” Waite said. “It’s not gonna be easy, but I know the team is working hard and seeing themselves improve everyday, which makes them more hungry to do even better.”Limiting mistakes continues to be an emphasis for Waite and the rest of the coaching staff because as he pointed out, in this sport, if you make mistakes, you directly give the other team a point.But the goal remains the same for the players – improving.“Improving as a team. Getting better everyday in practice, getting better playing every team, playing them better than we played the first time,” setter Janelle Garbielsen said. “Every team in the Big Ten is great, it’d be nice to see us play really great against a team, win or lose, but it would be nice to win.”A key against Northwestern will be passing and digging because of the fortitude of the Wildcats offense.Passing, a relative weakness all year, has seen a slight improvement in the second half of the season, as senior Kim Kuzma has stepped up. Kuzma moved into third place all-time on Wisconsin’s digs list last week.“I think our passing has improved a lot. Sometimes they serve tough and we’ll get a few off passes,” Gabrielsen said. “Every team has some tough servers and they’re not gonna get the greatest passes all the time, so you need to have an offense that can go around that.”While hope remains eternal, the Badgers face an uphill climb to reach the postseason. If they cannot pull out a win tonight, their tournament hopes will be on life-support.“Every day is a different day and a different match,” Waite said. “The main thing is we can’t give things away. If we can keep those [down], I think we’ll have a shot.”last_img

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