Volleyball team suffers loss in playoffs

The UW-Eau Claire volleyball team swept No. 17 Gustavus Adolphus (Minn.) on Thursday to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Blugolds have swept their opponents 15 times in their 24 wins this season. On the contrary, Eau Claire has lost 11 of the 20 matches in which they lost a game. Unfortunately for the Blugolds, the trend continued against No. 23 St. Benedicts (Minn.) on Friday. Eau Claire lost the match 1-3, putting an end to its season.

“We knew that they were good because they got the two seed in regionals,” senior Emily Haese said. “We didn’t really look at the rankings, we just went in knowing it was anybody’s game.”

In the opening game against Gustavus Adolphus, the Blugolds found themselves trailing early. Eau Claire rebounded to take the lead and eventually the game, 25-18.

In the second game of the match, the Blugolds once again found themselves down early, but the team did not give up. Senior Jenna Weber contributed with three kills late in the game, including the game winner. The 25-21 victory gave the Blugolds a 2-0 lead in the best of five matches.

The third game was a back and forth affair, with sophomore Danielle Lucia recording the game-winning kill. The final score was once again 25-21.

“We walked out on that court confident,” senior Abby Freiborg said. “At this point in the tournament, no one cares about where people are at in polls.”

Three Blugolds recorded double-digit kills in the match. Freiborg’s 14 kills led the team. Lucia added 12 and sophomore Emily Zupon recorded 11 kills. Junior Lindsey Smith recorded a match-high of 20 digs, and Freiborg added 19. Haese contributed 48 assists.

On Friday, against St. Benedicts, the Blugolds won the opening game 25-23. In the second and third games, the Blugolds attempted several rallies but were unable to come away with a victory. Both games ended with identical scores, 21-25.

In the fourth game, with their season on the line, the Blugolds rallied back from a 23-19 deficit to tie the score at 24. Since games are played up to 25 points and must be won by two, the game did not come to an end until St. Benedicts punched its ticket to the regional championships, 28-26.

Of the Blugolds’ 56 kills, senior Katie Fox recorded a career-high 21. The only other Blugold to record double-digit kills was Weber, who added 11. Haese recorded 49 assists and added 18 digs, which tied Smith for the team lead.

“I have so much faith in them next year,” Freiborg said. “They’re going to be a good team. They’re going to work hard and they want to go farther than we did this year.”

The loss ended the season for the Blugolds, who have five seniors on their roster. Fox, Freiborg, Haese, Weber and senior Kristen Moore have all played the last games of their careers. The seniors enjoyed successful careers that included two Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships – 2006 and 2008 – four NCAA tournament appearances – 2005 to 2008 – and a four year record of 106-32.

“We had a lot to be proud of,” Freiborg said. “I am so proud of each and every one of my teammates, and of Kim (Wudi) for her coaching.”

Haese had nothing but praise for her teammates too, adding that she would miss them the most.

“At the end of the game, that’s where the tears came from more – missing the girls.”