The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Volleyball falls in first round of NCAA tournament

The UW-Eau Claire women’s volleyball team saw their season come to an end on Friday after falling to St. Thomas (Minn.) in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Blugolds faced large deficits in the first two games that proved to be too large to come back from. They eventually dropped a highly contested third game, resulting in 3-0 loss for the match.

Eau Claire had got off to a slow start to the season, but won 13 of their final 14 matches leading up the tournament. In the process, the team earned a share of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title, and Coach Kim Wudi said they had been playing their best volleyball of the year.

Sophomore Kelly Schuh had similar remarks about the team’s play lately, and thought they had the right attitude entering the match against a tough St. Thomas team.

“I think we all felt actually pretty confident going into it,” Schuh said. “We have expectations for ourselves to go out and beat St. Thomas.”

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Schuh led the way for the Blugolds with 11 kills and 10 digs against the 11th ranked team from St. Thomas.
Although Schuh had a strong showing in the NCAA tournament, especially as just a sophomore, she said it ultimately meant nothing to her.

“You win as a team, you lose as a team,” Schuh said. “I just think I felt more bummed, than happy I played good —  because my team lost —  and that’s more important to me.”

In the first game, the team fell behind 15-5, and didn’t get back within ten points before a brief run at the end. Eventually they got as close as 23-17, but ended up falling 25-18.

The team led at the start of the second game, but quickly fell behind again, and trailed by a score of 19-11 at one point. Again, the team didn’t give up, and made a brief run before finally dropping the game 25-17.

Coach Wudi said the team was disappointed with how they came out in the first two sets, and that they knew weren’t going to be getting any help from the strong St. Thomas squad.

“I think we made a lot of mistakes that maybe are uncharacteristic of our team, and certainly of how we were playing as of late,” Wudi said. “You can’t make those kind of mistakes against a good team like St. Thomas.”

The third game proved to be a much different story as both teams traded the lead throughout. The Blugolds held an 18-17 advantage late in the game, but were out-scored 8-3 down the stretch and eventually fell 25-21.

Senior Liz Amici said that although it was an intense game with their season on the line, she was still pleased with the way that the team maintained their composure. She said that St. Thomas was able to keep pressing in the third game, and that Eau Claire may have become too conservative in their play.

“When games get on the line, sometimes we tend to shy off the aggressiveness and put in more tips and safe shots,” Amici said. “We probably needed to stay more aggressive.”

The loss brought Eau Claire’s record to 22-13 overall on the season. Their 7-1 WIAC record made them tri-champions of the conference with UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater. It was their third title in the last four years.

Overall, Amici said she was happy with the way things unfolded during her senior season, and with how much the team was able to improve.

“Winning the conference was a huge goal for us, and we did, so it was a good wrap-up to the season to win that, and get a bid into the (NCAA) tournament,” she said.

Amici led the team in both kills and blocks during the season, and finished her career with the third most blocks in school history.

Her performance didn’t go unnoticed by coaches across the conference and country, though. She was named the 2011 WIAC Player of the Year, and was more recently named a Second-Team All-American, solidifying her spot as one of the top players in the country.

Wudi said outside of Amici’s incredible statistics, she was a selfless player who always made sure to put the team’s success before her own.

“It’s not the stats or the awards, it’s that she really did play for her team and represented UW-Eau Claire as best as anybody really could have in our program,” Wudi said. “I think that’s the thing that you miss the most, the fact that not only are you losing a good volleyball player, but you’re losing a good representative of the university.”

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