Tough test for Volleyball

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoWisconsin’s volleyball team just might be facing its biggest challenge this weekend, even bigger than that of the season-opening AVCA Volleyball Showcase.The Badgers travel to No. 14 Ohio State and No. 2 Penn State this weekend, with plenty at stake — their eight-match Big Ten winning streak and the conference lead, to name a few.”We know this is big for us, but it’s also exciting,” UW head coach Pete Waite said. “Our team feels good about their play, and I think they’ll do well on the road.”The Buckeyes opened the season with a perfect 10-0 record in non-conference play, but recently fell to the Nittany Lions and No. 11 Purdue Boilermakers in the Big Ten.Junior middle blocker Danielle Meyer leads Ohio State in kills with 5.23 per game, with freshman outside hitter Anna Szerszen chipping in 4.36 per game.But it is senior setter Marisa Main who leads the Buckeye offense.Ever since transferring from Xavier University two years ago, Main has been one of the steadiest setters in the Big Ten. Last year, she finished second in the conference in hitting percentage (.398) and third in assists per game (12.78) en route to being an All-Big Ten selection.”She’s a great setter,” Waite said. “She’s very quick and very offensive. Some setters just set the ball; she sets and she throws it down against you, attacking the offense. She really freezes your block and makes you concentrate on her, which distracts you from their other hitters. She’s an excellent player.”While Ohio State will certainly be a tough match, especially at Columbus, Wisconsin will have an even tougher match the following night against Penn State.Ohio State and Penn State are arguably the toughest traveling partners in the Big Ten this year, but Waite isn’t as concerned as Wisconsin now has a stronger traveling partner this year in No. 24 Minnesota.”It’s going to be a big challenge for us,” Waite said in regards to the tough road trip. “But in the same respect, we now have a good partner on our road trips with Minnesota so these teams have to play a tough team on both nights; they can’t just focus on one good team.”Penn State is currently on a roll, undefeated at 15-0 and sharing the Big Ten lead with both Wisconsin and Minnesota, but maybe most impressive is the way in which the Nittany Lions have won their past several matches, winning the last seven by scores of 3-0, including a win over No. 11 Purdue.Penn State has enjoyed all this early-season success even with the loss of All-American Sam Tortorello. Waite accredits this to the great leadership of head coach Russ Rose.In his 28th season at Happy Valley, Rose is arguably the most successful women’s volleyball coach in the nation, having never posted less than 22 wins in a season.”It’s traditionally been a great program, even before they came in the Big Ten,” Waite said. “Russ Rose has been there forever, and it’s gotten to the point where his friends in college are now parents of the players he’s bringing in. They’re a very strong program and they only took a few years’ dip after winning [the Big Ten] in 1999, but they’re back and are a very good team.”Penn State is led by a plethora of underclassmen this year, with sophomore Nicole Fawcett leading the team in kills per game (4.58), freshman Alisha Glass the leader in assists per game (11.94) and sophomore Christa Harmotto leading the entire NCAA in hitting percentage (.506).While Harmotto and the Lions may be one the most accurate teams on the net, there is another facet of their game that Waite is concerned with.”They’re also a tough serving team,” Waite said. “We’ve worked a lot this week on defending the jump serve; they’ve got a few people who do that. And also our serving, we’ve got to keep them off the net where their offense comes from.”Wisconsin’s improvement in serving starts with freshman outside-hitter Brittney Dolgner. While Dolgner has made an impact in her first season, she has struggled with her serve. Typically, Dolgner uses an explosive jump serve, but after several service errors, she has switched to a set serve.”Dolgner’s been working more on her jump serve, but we keep her down on the ground sometimes,” Waite said. “The jump serve is a risky serve, there’s no doubt about it — there’s days you’re on and days you’re off. We have to know as a staff … the days she’s on because we don’t want to take her off the court since she’s such a great back row attacker.”Even though the travel to Ohio State and Penn State may be the longest Big Ten road trip, Waite is hoping for a short trip back home.”It’s always a shorter trip if you win,” Waite said. “That’d be amazing and exciting for us.”last_img