Last weekend, the 11-13 UW-Eau Claire volleyball team prepared for the Fall Classic home tournament knowing it needed wins to move toward to the conference championship tournament.
Standing at seventh in the conference, Eau Claire was on the wrong side of playoff eligibility.
Head coach Kim Wudi said her players and coaches had a sense of urgency, believing this team had underperformed to its expectations to this point in the season.
The team needed to limit its mental errors and force every team to play its fast tempo to return to what Wudi said is the team’s best system.
Eau Claire’s first challenge was 15th-ranked Trinity University (Texas), and after the teams were tied through four sets (25-22, 20-25,16, 25-21), the Blugolds played in their fourth deciding set in a row and took the victory 15-13, 3-2.
Senior Megan Tracy executed a kill with the score tied at 13 to earn her team the potential game-winning serve. After the serve the Tigers committed an attack error, giving the match to Eau Claire.
Senior Alexis Wong said Trinity was a tough opponent, but when they beat ranked opponents, they’re reminded of how strong their team is.
“Trinity has beaten a lot of good teams,” Wong said. “It was a tough match, but we played better, and that goes a long way when you’re playing ranked teams.”
Against St. Mary’s University (Minn.), the Blugolds won the first set 25-21 and lost the second 25-22. Eau Claire bounced back and finished the match 3-1 with scores of 25-17 and 25-16.
Sophomore Katrina Raskie and Wong’s 13 kills each led the team as Eau Claire out-killed St. Mary’s 58-46.
Eau Claire lost against No. 21 Millikin University (Ill.) 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-25) to start the second day of the tournament.
Wudi said passing issues really hurt the team, especially in the fourth set.
“We couldn’t get the ball to the net,” Wudi said. “Our passing broke down completely.”
Wudi said especially when an All-American is on the other side of the net, the team needs passing to be on point for their offense to run efficiently.
Both teams were close in errors with Millikin at 21 and Eau Claire at 19, but Millikin recorded 62 kills against Eau Claire’s 42.
In the closing match against St. Scholastica (Minn.), Eau Claire swept the Saints (25-18, 25-22, 25-17) and finished the weekend 3-1.
Wudi said she liked the way her team finished the weekend and hopes it will take the lessons it learned into the conference matchups remaining on the schedule.
“It’s time for our team to play their best volleyball,” Wudi said. “Great teams play their best when it’s most needed and we need it to make the playoffs.”
Eau Claire plays at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at University of Minnesota-Morris and at 7 p.m. next Wednesday against UW-Stout at home.