Volleyball nets two huge road wins to snag second seed

The UW-Eau Claire women’s volleyball team has finished inside the top three in WIAC regular season standings for the past eight years. This past weekend, that streak was kept alive as the Blugolds went 2-0, defeating UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh on the road.

Seventh-year head coach Kim Wudi said the biggest thing contributing to her team’s success this past weekend was their ability to come back from mistakes.

“We didn’t let one mistake turn into three or four mistakes,” Wudi said. “That helped us not give up big runs of points.”

The two wins for Eau Claire, which took place after a loss at home last Wednesday night, resulted in the team finishing second in the WIAC conference standings, which earned them the second seed in the WIAC Championships.

The Blugold loss came on Senior Night, falling to UW-Stevens Point 3-0. The win for the Pointers secured a first place finish in the standings, just ahead of Eau Claire.

Wudi said her team did execute part of their game plan against the Pointers but failed in others.

“We were able to contain some of their best players, but we couldn’t put the ball away offensively, and that was the biggest difference in the match,” Wudi said.

After the game, the Blugolds honored their two senior captains Kelly Schuh and Lauren Sutherland. After the game teammates of Schuh and Sutherland shared a speech in honor of the seniors and presented them each with a parting gift.

“It was pretty cool that the girls addressed us together,” Schuh said. “Because Lauren and I are best friends, and it has always been just us two in our grade for volleyball.”

Sutherland said the speech the girls did was awesome and being a senior is bittersweet because she does not want to be done playing the sport she loves.

Wudi said both Schuh and Sutherland are people of extremely high character and that they have both put their name in the record books here.

“When you get to be around girls like them everyday, they end up having a strong impact on you,” Wudi said. “They set high standards for themselves and for the other people around them.”

Following the Stevens Point game, both Schuh and Sutherland said they knew it was do or die time if they wanted to finish second in the conference. Their first game of the weekend was versus Whitewater, ranked No. 25 in Division III, and the Blugolds were able to pull off the victory in commanding fashion, 3-1. Schuh tied for a match high with 17 kills, and Sutherland recorded a match high 26 digs.

Game two of the road trip saw the Blugolds go head-to-head with Oshkosh. They made quick work on the court against the Titans, winning 3-0. Once again it was Schuh and Sutherland leading the Blugolds. Schuh delivered 15 kills while Sutherland had 21 digs.

This week, the Blugolds will travel to Illinois Wesleyan University for four more matches concluding their regular season play.  Wudi said this weekend is just as important as the WIAC Championships.

“We need to position ourselves with as many wins as possible going into the conference tournament,” Wudi said. “We need to get better this weekend so that we have not only wins coming out of the weekend, but also confidence going into the conference tournament.”

The first match of the weekend will be against the host team, Illinois Wesleyan, Friday at 3 p.m.