Volleyball drops second Regional game

Story by Frank F. Pellegrino

Following a 3-0 win in their first National Collegiate Athletic Association Regional match on Friday, the women’s volleyball team had its season come to an end after falling to St. Thomas (Minn.) on Saturday.

Eau Claire entered the weekend ranked 17th in the country and took on no. 19 ranked Nebraska Wesleyan (Neb.) in their opening match. The Blugolds set the tone early before eventually sweeping their way to a victory. Senior Rachel Ver Voort led the way with 16 kills, and senior Amanda Lessner added 36 more.

Going into the match against 12th ranked St. Thomas, Ver Voort said the team definitely understood what was at stake.

“We knew it was a do-or-die situation,” she said. “We knew that we had to play our best if we were going to beat St. Thomas, because St. Thomas is a lot stronger team than (Nebraska Wesleyan) and we had the mindset that we had to go out there and play our best.”

After dropping the first set 14-25, Eau Claire lost by just two in the second and was never able to recover in the match. Ultimately they were swept 0-3, ending any hopes the Blugolds had of making a deep tournament run.

Ver Voort said the team didn’t struggle in any area specifically, just that they didn’t play up to their potential.

“Basically we just got outperformed by their team and that’s the difference,” Ver Voort said. “They played very well and we didn’t play our best and that makes the difference in the match.”

It was the third time this season Eau Claire played St. Thomas and the third time they were not able to come up with victory.

Junior Liz Amici didn’t know exactly why they had such a hard time against St. Thomas this year, but she had nothing but good things to say about their team.

“They have a great team, their setter is an All-American,” Amici said. “They have a lot of good hitters … they play good defense, just all around they are a very strong team.”

The Blugolds finished their season 25-10 after the loss, but ended 7-1 in the WIAC and were the regular season champions.

Amici said the team’s goals were to win the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, and that it was an accomplishment just to earn one of them this year. She also talked about how the team was tested all season with their difficult schedule.

“There are eight teams left in division three and we played three of them this season,” Amici said. “We were very happy with the outcome (this season). Obviously we would still like to be playing, but we’re still very happy.”

On an individual level, Amici and Ver Voort both earned first team All-WIAC honors, while Lessner and senior Blair Murphy both received honorable mentions.

Both Amici and Ver Voort said they were honored with the awards, but quickly deflected much of the credit to their teammates.

“Obviously a lot of credit goes to (setter) Amanda (Lessner) because without her I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Ver Voort said. “It’s a personal victory, but it says a lot about our team as a whole that we have a solid foundation and can all get those honors.”

Coach Kim Wudi was named WIAC Coach of the Year after leading her team to a regular season title in the highly competitive conference.

Amici said Wudi was definitely deserving of the award.

“With the strength of schedule we have, we did win some big games and a lot of them were down to the wire, and that goes to our coaching staff,” Amici said. “Our whole coaching staff was definitely great this year, and we’re looking to duplicate that again next year.”