Blugold volleyball drop home opener in packed Zorn Arena

The Blugolds lost their opening game to Saint Mary’s in a sweltering Zorn Arena

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Photo by Kendall Ruchti

Freshmen Amber Karn awaits the serve in Zorn Arena. The match was moved from Mcphee after court condensation.

In spite of the high temperatures and a change in venue, over a thousand students showed up to a rowdy Zorn Arena to help kick-off another season of Blugold athletics.

The UW-Eau Claire volleyball team dropped their first match of the season in a 3-1 loss to Saint Mary’s University (Minn.) on Tuesday night.

The Blugolds were able to fight back to win the third set after losing the first two, but the height and consistent play around the net from the Cardinals proved too much for the Blugolds.

“Anytime you have big players across the front row all the time it presents a challenge for our hitters,” head coach Kim Wudi said.

Volleyball may be an indoor sport, but sometimes the elements can have an effect on the game. Due to high temperatures that caused court condensation, the game had to be moved from Mcphee to Zorn.

Although coach Wudi felt   the Blugolds did well on defense and in the passing game, the team will have to execute better around the net to score points she said. Over four sets the Blugolds racked up 30 errors compared to the 13 committed by the Cardinal’s.

“The passing was great, we just didn’t do our job as hitters to put it away,” team captain Kelly Riesgraf said.

The Blugolds are looking to rebound this year after a difficult end to the 2014 season.

Last season the Blugolds finished seventh in the WIAC, leaving them just outside of the conference tournament bid. However, had they won their last match of the season against UW-Oshkosh they would have finished third overall and been given a home game to start the tournament.

“We think about that every day,” Wudi said.

The offseason saw the team grow from 14 student athletes to 20 this season, and Wudi expects some new faces to be stepping into roles right away. Along with the added depth, the team is returning two captains in senior Jenna Smits and Junior Katrina Raskie, and senior Kelly Riesgraf is filling the other captain spot left open by Alexis Wong.

This year’s squad is small but fast, and Wudi hopes the team utilizes that speed to get out in front of opponents she said. But one of the challenges for a team that can play as fast as the Blugolds is making sure they play slow enough to eliminate mistakes. Wudi said that it would be foolish for the team to try to play too fast.

The defining characteristic of this team is determination, and after ending last season in heartbreaking fashion, the team has to set all egos aside to reach their goal of a conference championship this season Wudi said.

Wudi said that all of her players have been aligning their attitudes with the team culture and have been filling whatever role they have been asked to fill.

“We have a goal in sight and we are trying to build a culture and set a standard,” Riesgraf said.

The Blugolds will head to Arden Hills, Minn. to participate in the Bethel tournament over the weekend. Eau Claire will face UW-Superior and Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) on Friday, and St. Olaf (Minn.) and Martin Luther (Minn.) on Saturday.