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Saturday, June 25, 2022

UW’s offseason full of obstacles

The UW volleyball team has only played one match so far this season, but Coach Pete Waite and his team have already had to face some significant obstacles. 

 

 

 

First, after finishing with a 33-4 overall record in 2000 and advancing to the championship round of the NCAA Tournament, the Badgers lost senior middle blocker Jenny Maastricht and Meggan Kohnen to graduation and freshman middle blocker Claudia Rodriguez retired because of injury problems. 

 

 

 

If that wasn't enough, the NCAA decided to change the entire format of play in college volleyball, switching from a side-out 15-point game format to a rally-scoring 30-point game in which points are scored on every serve. 

 

 

 

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Finally, the week before UW's first match against Pacific, senior middle blocker Sherisa Livingston, an All-American selection last year, was declared ineligible until a hearing on her academic record could be held. The hearing was originally set for Aug. 31, meaning she couldn't participate in the team's first tournament, the State Farm Classic in Stockton, Calif., Aug. 23 to 24.  

 

 

 

However, a review of Livingston's record by the university showed she had satisfied her re-admission requirements, making the hearing unnecessary. 

 

 

 

The situation with Livingston still may have affected the Badgers during the State Farm Classic. Wisconsin lost to 12th-ranked Pacific in the opening round of the tournament, as the Badgers had practiced without Livingston for the entire week and Waite had changed the lineups to deal with Livingston's absence. 

 

 

 

'It was great to have Sherisa here, but we've been training the last two weeks with two different lineups because we didn't know if she would be here or not,' Waite said. 

 

 

 

Waite also said the first game with the rally-scoring format showed the Badgers the new game format will take time to learn. 

 

 

 

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'Any kind of errors right now will kill you with the rally-scoring system,' Waite said. 'Last year, [what] would have been a side out and we could have maybe stopped the [other] team from scoring when we side out. This year, that's a point for the other team.' 

 

 

 

Despite the season-opening loss, expectations are still high for the Wisconsin squad this year. The Badgers return two key seniors in Livingston and senior setter Lizzy Fitzgerald and return 12 players from last year's team that finished 33-4, the best record in school history. 

 

 

 

Still, a lot of Wisconsin's returning players didn't see much playing time last season, and Waite said these players need to get some experience early on this season. 

 

 

 

'I think part of [the loss] was that we had a lot of new players on the court who weren't major contributors last year, and they have to find out what it takes to score and control the game,' Waite said. 

 

 

 

This year's team also has a couple of impressive freshman recruits. Outside hitter Aubrey Meierotto saw her first action of the year in the State Farm Classic, registering her first collegiate kill against Pacific. Fellow first-year players Jill Odenthal and Marian Weidner also saw some game time in the match against Pacific. 

 

 

 

'[We had] a pretty well-balanced attack [against Pacific],' Waite said. 'That was good, and in the third [game] we got some of the freshmen in to help us out. We just have to get used to our players.' 

 

 

 

All the Badgers' players are going to have to do well this season in order for Wisconsin to come close to repeating the success it had last year. The Badgers face 10 nationally ranked opponents this year and open the season with four consecutive tournaments before the Big Ten regular season kicks off Sept. 21 against Michigan State at the UW Field House. 

 

 

 

Still, Waite is confident his players can overcome a rocky start and play to their potential. 

 

 

 

'I think we started to play together better as a team [against Pacific],' Waite said. 'We started doing what we're good at and getting used to which player was next to the other. That just makes for better volleyball.'

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