The home season for the UW volleyball team officially opened this weekend with the Badgers hosting the Badger Volleyball Invitational.
Before the tournament, Athletics Director Pat Richter made a special visit to the Field House to reveal two new additions to the building. In a brief ceremony, banners reading '2000 Big Ten Champions' and '2000 NCAA Finalist' were unveiled. Head Coach Pete Waite helped design the banners, but to the team, the banners were a surprise.
After the emotional start, the Badgers began their homestand against Ball State. UW started out slow in the first game, but pulled through to win, 30-28, 33-31, 30-16.
Sophomore outside hitter Lisa Zukowski, the star of the match, ended the night with 21 kills; and senior middle hitter Erin Byrd with 14 kills. Senior middle blocker Sherisa Livingston had 13 kills while senior setter Lizzy Fitzgerald had 56 assists.
Zukowski attributed most of her success against Ball State to Livingston.
'Sherisa opens up major holes for me, I am not just out there doing it by myself,' Zukowski said.
Saturday morning the Badgers opened up play against St. Louis University. UW marched past the Billikens easily in the first two games of the match, winning 30-13 and 30-15. Though the Billikens won the third game 30-27, UW dominated the fourth game, 30-11 to win the match.
Livingston had an outstanding match with 24 kills, while Byrd added 14 and Zukowski chipped in with 11. Fitzgerald once again guided the team to success with 52 assists.
The final game of the tournament pitted UW against a Northern Iowa team that returned all six starters from last year.
Game one featured sloppy play on the part of UW. UNI came out fired up and registered 18 kills to UW's 13. The Badgers never gained ground on the Panthers and lost the game, 30-22.
The following game proved to be a complete 180 from the previous game. UW gained an early lead and won the game 30-18. Amy Hultgren was a big force at the net altering many shots while junior Lori Rittenhouse led the team with six kills.
Both teams then settled down and played exciting volleyball, as game three was a back-and-forth match. The Badgers put forth a balanced attack with six players registering at least three kills each. Fitzgerald had 17 assists, but UNI held on and won the tight match 31-29.
Game four mirrored game three, as it was a close match until the end. UW won, 30-24, to force the deciding fifth game. Rittenhouse and Byrd played big to help the Badgers remain alive.
The deciding game, only played to 15, would prove to be the most exciting game of the tournament. UW came out of the gates with an early lead, but allowed UNI to sneak back in. The game went down to the wire, but in the end it was the Panthers who would be victorious 15-13.
The match left UNI undefeated so far this season with a 7-0 record and dropped UW to 6-2.
'We played in spurts and they were the better team tonight,' Waite said. 'But nothing surprises me about Northern Iowa. I know what's coming at us and I know it's a team that has a shot to beat anyone on the court any day.'