Digging out the wins

Volleyball team defeats nationally ranked Tommies for first time in seven years

After a weekend of impressive teamwork and solid performances, the UW-Eau Claire volleyball team looks forward to improving its defense and running their fast-paced offense.
Eau Claire played at the Augsburg College Volleyball Invitational last weekend in Minneapolis.
Head coach Kim Wudi said she had put an emphasis on speeding up the team’s offense last offseason, and the change was obvious last weekend at the tournament.
“To run fast, everything runs through our setter and I think Jenna (Smits) has been doing a fantastic job of keeping the offense fast,” Wudi said. “Every time that she can get the ball from a good pass we’re really successful.”
Smits said given the physical makeup of the roster, that is exactly what they have to do.
“Being a shorter team, the faster offense really helps us,” junior Jenna Smits said.  “As long as we have good control of the first contact, we can usually execute.”
That is just what the Blugolds did against Bethany Lutheran College (Minn.) during their first match of the tournament.
“We started off a little bit slow, trying to get into the groove of things,” Smits said. “We had to suck it up and play at a higher level.”
Despite the slow start, the Blugolds defeated the Vikings every set while increasing the margin of victory each win by scores of 25-18, 25-17 and 25-11. Eau Claire hit .222 and forced Bethany Lutheran to a .000 hitting percentage.
Following the dominant win, the Blugolds carried momentum into the second match against Gustavus Adolphus (Minn.). The Blugolds hung on to win the first set 25-21 and proceeded to defeat the Gusties 25-13 and 25-17.
Eau Claire finished the second match with a .240 hitting percentage and only committed ten errors to end Friday’s tournament session.
Saturday started with the Blugolds facing ninth-ranked University of St. Thomas (Minn.). The battle between the Blugolds and the Tommies heated up after the first two sets, which went 25-18 in favor of Eau Claire in the first, while the second went 11-25 to St. Thomas.
The match ended in 25-23 and 25-21 in wins for the Blugolds, giving Eau Claire their first win against St. Thomas since 2007.
“I think we were a little bit surprised that we beat St. Thomas, Wudi said. “We went out there and executed our game plan. Then we were so excited that we forgot we had to come back and play again.”
Eau Claire faced tournament host Augsburg College (Minn.) for their final match of the weekend. The first two sets went in favor of the Eagles, with Eau Claire losing 11-25 and 15-25.
The third set came down to the wire and required extra play time to determine the winner. Augsburg didn’t lead until the score was tied at 26, but scored the final two points to secure the win 28-26.
“We didn’t serve as well in the match against Augsburg,” Wudi said. “They were able to play comfortably and their good hitters were hard to defend.”
Wudi said the team has to improve their mental toughness to secure wins which they otherwise have given up.
Overall, Smits said last weekend boosted their confidence and definitely showed them they have made improvements since the Saint Benedict Labor Day tournament.
Last night the Blugolds fell to Viterbo 3-0 in straight sets. Sophomore Katrina Raskie and junior Kelly Riesgraf both led the team in kills with six a piece.
Eau Claire will be in action this weekend as they are scheduled to compete in four contests.