Volleyball pulls off weekend sweep, win Inn Towner Invitational

first_imgIn a grand return to the UW Field House, the Wisconsin volleyball team dominated the opposition this weekend as it captured the Inn Towner Invitational title without dropping a set.Junior outside hitter Julie Mikaelsen was crowned MVP of the tournament, recording double-digit kills in all three matches. Twelve of those put-aways came in a 25-15, 26-24, 25-23 sweep of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers Saturday night to clinch the tournament title.Senior middle blocker Alexis Mitchell also contributed a dozen kills for the Badgers (8-1) against Milwaukee, leading the team with a .435 hitting percentage.Head coach Pete Waite knew the final match against the gritty Panthers would be a dogfight, as Milwaukee has earned the Horizon League championship in eight of the last nine years.“I’m really happy with the win tonight against Milwaukee,” Waite said. “It’s traditionally a very strong team, often conference champions and a very, very scrappy team and well-coached.”The battle with the Panthers came down to a tough Badger defense. Wisconsin kept the Milwaukee hitting percentage to a lowly .113, which had risen significantly from .030 in the opening set.The tournament’s MVP explained that communication is key when facing a persistent squad.“The players in the back row are doing a really good job talking to the blockers,” said Mikaelsen. “We’re working together really well compared to what we had done earlier. We’ve been working a lot with this in practice and it’s showing out in matches.”Earlier in the day, Wisconsin wrapped up its second win of the weekend by sweeping the North Dakota State Bison by a score of 25-22, 25-20, 25-23.In the first set, the Badgers found themselves at a difficult 10-point disadvantage with the score at 6-16. But the deficit quickly shrank as junior libero Annemarie Hickey ripped six consecutive serves to help cut the lead to four. Five kills apiece from senior outside hitter Bailey Reshel and sophomore outside hitter Ellen Chapman in the set gave Wisconsin the 1-0 lead in the match by ending the set on a 19-6 run.The Badgers found themselves down in every set of their match against the Bison, but managed to battle their way back to win in straight sets. Waite has been impressed with his team’s ability to rebound from early deficits.“We’re not getting flustered, and they’re keeping their composure and bit by bit, they’re fighting their way back,” Waite said. “It’s important – sometimes your game isn’t quite there or the other team is just hot or they’re getting some breaks. As long as you hang in there and keep fighting, good things happen.”A ubiquitous force for Wisconsin in the match was sophomore setter Courtney Thomas, who contributed on both the offensive and defensive side of the net with 36 assists, 10 digs and six kills. She achieved a double-double in all three matches this weekend and, along with Hickey, was named to the all-tournament team.Thomas said that the fluidity of ball movement and offensive chemistry were the elements that put the Badgers past the opposition.“Our passing was really good – we were digging a lot of balls this weekend,” Thomas said. “As a setter, if it’s up in the middle of the court, I’m happy. I’m not really too picky about where it’s up. As long as we dig, we’re going to get a kill out of it.”The first match of the weekend came against the Drake Bulldogs Friday night in the highly-anticipated home opener. Wisconsin found itself down by three points in each of the first two sets, but was once again able to win cleanly in straight sets, 25-17, 25-17, 25-19.The Badgers’ attack was again led by Mikaelsen, who finished with 10 kills at a season-high .588 hitting percentage. Chapman added nine kills of her own while contributing a personal best in service aces with three.Although Wisconsin has posted perfect records the past two weekends, Waite believes the team has much to improve on. He hopes to advance the front row’s blocking and expand the playbook on the offensive end to prepare for the nearing conference season.“We need to be closing the blocking and getting our hands across the net,” Waite said. “Offensively we hope to put a few new wrinkles in the offense. … As we get closer to conference people get our tapes and they’ll be reading what we’ve done, so we need to bring some new things in.”last_img

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