Volleyball splits pair of conference games

Kevin Gisi

The 9-1 UW-Eau Claire volleyball team, ranked No. 13 overall, hosted the then 3-5 UW-Platteville Pioneers on Friday in the conference opener, and found themselves on the wrong end of an upset.

In a close first game, the Blugolds lost 25-23, seemingly giving the Pioneers momentum for the remaining games. Game two ended in a 25-18 victory for the Pioneers, and the third game, a back-and-forth affair that saw the Blugolds take a 14-9 lead, eventually ended in a 25-22 victory for the Pioneers.

“You don’t play the game on paper, and we’ve got to be ready to play every team that we play this year,” coach Kim Wudi said. “This conference has been notorious for upsets. I think . we took them for granted and we learned a lesson that that can’t happen.”

Offensively, Eau Claire was well balanced. Sophomore Liz Amici led the team with eight kills and juniors Rachael Ver Voort and Danielle Lucia each added seven. Junior Amanda Lessner led the team with 21 assists while Ver Voort and senior Lindsey Smith each added six digs.

On Saturday the Blugolds once again hosted a WIAC foe, UW-La Crosse. Like the Pioneers, the Eagles entered the match with a losing record – 2-8. While the match once again ended in a sweep, it was the Blugolds who found themselves on the winning side.

“Our offense and our defense need to click, and I think we put things together against La Crosse and we took care of business,” Smith said. “We still aren’t playing our best volleyball and that is exciting because I still know that our team can be a lot better and make improvements.”

The Blugolds survived a late rally in the first game to win 25-22. In the second game the Blugolds found themselves leading late, but once again were forced to fight off a late rally to win 25-20. In the third game Wudi decided to play two freshmen, setter Emily Naeve and outside hitter Amy Bomgren, who Wudi said played a big part in the eventual 25-14 victory.

“That’s not to say our other players weren’t doing well or haven’t done well; but, today in particular it was those two who I would say stepped up and played well,” she said. “They came out with energy and took advantage of their opportunity to be on the court.”

It was the usual suspects on offense for the Blugolds, as Ver Voort and Lucia led the team in kills with eight and seven respectively. Lessner and Naeve split the setting duties, recording 17 assists each. Defensively, Smith once again led the team in digs with 20 while Ver Voort and Amici led the team in blocks with five each.

“Every person that was out there showed that they wanted to be there,” Smith said. “After our first win our confidence came back and we kept bringing it and then our confidence kept getting higher and higher.”

The Blugolds will return to action next weekend when they travel to Wheaton College (Ill.) to compete in the Wheaton Thunder Invite. Eau Claire will not host a match again until October 7 when they host UW-River Falls.

“In two weeks we’re going on the road to face (UW) Oshkosh, who is playing well and is ranked number three in the country,” Wudi said. “This coming weekend is preparing for Oshkosh. That’s where our focus needs to be – how are we going to beat Oshkosh in two weeks?”