Badgers set sights on Final Four

first_imgView Gallery (2 Photos)The 2006 Wisconsin volleyball team fell short of its goal to make it to the NCAA Final Four when it lost to Texas in the Sweet 16.Now with more than half the roster comprised of upperclassmen — including five seniors — the team is poised to make a run at the ultimate goals of reaching the Final Four and winning a Big Ten title.”This is something we planned on and have been excited for since this class came in as freshmen,” head coach Pete Waite said of his senior class.”And we had four or five starters at that time, so their experience level has risen each year, their focus has gotten better and now they have an urgency to finish with a great season.”Even with an experienced team, Waite will have to find a way to replace three seniors — Amy Bladow, Maria Carlini, and Katie Lorenzen — who graduated after last season. “You just kind of fill in the hole, and we have people waiting in the wings,” Waite said. “Kat Dykstra is looking really good in practice, as is Morgan Salow. … In the middle, with Bladow gone we got Audra Jeffers, who can be in there or Salow. So we got some nice options. We’re even a little bit bigger.”Also looking to contribute this year are two incoming freshmen: Allison Wack — the sister of senior libero and co-captain Jocelyn Wack — and Kim Kuzma.”The freshmen are awesome,” Wack said. “There are only two of them, which is a little bit different from the last couple of years, but they are very experienced and very mature as players. “They are definitely embracing everything the coaches are giving them, everything the players are giving them. They are doing awesome and the fans are going to see great things out of them this year.”In an effort to gain more experience, Waite took his squad to Europe this summer to play against teams in Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. “We saw a lot of different styles of play out there and different levels of maturity,” Wack said. “They were a little bit older, and you could just tell how experienced and composed and just calm the other teams were. That was something we really wanted to take away from our European Tour, just staying calm while we are playing.”Since getting back from the European trip, the Badgers have been working on taking their game to the next level by becoming more consistent with their play. “Consistency on road matches [is big],” senior co-captain Taylor Reineke said. “In previous years, we have gone away to other gyms, and we didn’t play as well as we had hoped. I think we need to work on being more consistent on the road.”Wisconsin will also need to find a way to top four-time defending Big Ten champion Penn State if it is going to win its first conference title since 2001.”You pretty much are going to have to make it through Big Ten play with maybe at most one loss,” said Waite about what it will take to win the conference. “You’ve got to beat people not only on your own court, but on the road, which is very tough. We split with [Penn State] last year. Now we have to do the same with Minnesota and take care of them and then try and get that win at Penn State.”This team is totally capable of it. I think they have the ability this year more so than in the last four or five years.” Regardless of what this season ultimately becomes, the players and coaches are looking forward to what should be a fun ride.”I’m excited to just get back on the court and play in front of the fans here,” Reineke said. “I’m excited for every match.”Carroll leaves teamSenior middle blocker Maya Carroll decided to leave the team this summer. According to Waite, Carroll was offered an internship with the Big Ten Network where she will be a sideline reporter for football and volleyball games.”That is just a great thing as far as her résumé and the experience she can get for her future career,” Waite said. “We will miss her, but I couldn’t be happier for her for the opportunity.”In her three-year career with Wisconsin, Carroll appeared in 11 games notched 11 kills, with a .333 hitting percentage.last_img read more