first_imgBrittney Dolgner and the Badgers will take on UW-Green Bay before beginning Big Ten play next week.[/media-credit]Wisconsin volleyball coach Pete Waite highlighted the team’s progression despite its 4-4 record during his news conference Monday afternoon. The team has a fairly tough schedule this year, which Waite notes as an attribute to promoting team growth and development. Waite said that if the team had easy teams on the schedule there would not be any room for improvement even if it were winning.“It is a challenge for us,” Waite said. “We want to make sure everything is positive for the players right now. It is easy to get down on themselves since they are used to being a winning program all of the time. But if they are making improvements, that’s the thing we’re excited about.”Among the keys for the team to improve upon, Waite called for a consistent high level of play as a determining factor for the team’s success. Last week’s match against Notre Dame was a key example of the team’s ability to start off strong, but inability to maintain its competitiveness throughout the entire match.Notre Dame (4-3) is a strong team that has already knocked off Stanford, a team that reached the semifinals in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Badgers finished second in the Notre Dame Invitational last week, with senior Brittney Dolgner and sophomore Elle Ohlander being selected to the all-tournament team.However, Waite was especially proud of the team’s match against Oregon State on Sept. 6, during which the Badgers pushed the match to five sets and beat a high-caliber team on its own court.“Bit by bit we’re finding out where people are going to be on the court and they’re getting more used to each other and especially when we were at Oregon State last week,” Waite said. “We played a high level, beat a very good team on their home court and we saw that sustained for five sets. And again, that was a long match and they did a great job, so we’re seeing some great signs.”Badgers set for Big Ten playThe team is seeking its first winning streak of the season as it prepares for its match against UW-Green Bay Wednesday. After that, the Wisconsin volleyball team will take a much-needed week of practice to rest up and work on technique improvement before moving into their Big Ten schedule when the Badgers face Iowa on Sept. 23.After finishing with a 7-13 record in conference play last year, Waite has even higher regard for the Big Ten this season.“We know the Big Ten is even stronger this year than it was last year,” Waite said. “It is deeper than it ever has been.”Waite called attention to the 6-foot-6-inch Ohlander as a middle blocker who has stepped out of the midst of the others on the team. He also acknowledged setter Janelle Gabrielsen for her athletic ability to adjust to the single setter formation despite having no prior experience in that system.“Elle Ohlander in the middle is stepping up,” Waite said. “We knew there were about four middles that were very close, but she’s really been the one stepping up to be the most consistent.”Freshmen adjusting quicklyWaite drew attention to the strong play of the freshmen that have adjusted quickly to the pace of the college game. Kelsey Maloney, Alexis Mitchell and Mary Ording are all freshmen who have been learning the middle blocker position.Waite emphasizes the importance of their ability to improve their blocking techniques as the season progresses.“[The freshmen need] to react and not guess on sets where the setter is going front or back,” Waite said. “As soon as they start reading more instead of guessing, they’re going to be there faster and do a better job with that.”The freshmen are learning quickly as the team recorded a record 10 blocks in its 3-0 win over New Mexico State on Sept. 12. Waite was pleased with the Badgers’ ability to respond to a tough loss against Notre Dame and improve from it.“Some kids improved and that’s really what we’re trying to do is teach them from match to match to change some things and be better players,” Waite said.last_img

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