Teammates on and off the court

Volleyball helps new students get situated on campus

More stories from Sam Martinez



Before every practice, senior captain Jenna Smits reads a quote off a whiteboard and calls on a fellow teammate to read  and explain what it means to them.

“We have that quote up all practice,” freshman Amber Karn said. “To look at that quote, focus on that quote for the day, it just helps us work out.”

Head Coach Kim Wudi said she noticed many of her athletes are able to find motivation in famous quotes, and they always try to relate the quote of the day to their current situation.

Karn, said that playing on the volleyball team has been a great way to kickstart her time at UW-Eau Claire. Being on the team gave her the chance to befriend many upperclassmen and also meet many other athletes on the soccer and football teams before the academic year even started.

Karn said for a team building exercise, they had a team dinner at an upperclassman’s house every night during the first week of the preseason.

Balancing an academic schedule can be difficult for any new student, and a student athlete has to dedicate a lot of time that could be spent studying, toward practice and games. Coach Wudi said other than class, her athlete’s two main daily commitments are practice and sleep.

“They have to learn how to use the rest of their awake time wisely,” Wudi said.

Karn said she has been able to handle her studies by participating in athlete study groups and her teammates are also able to help her in many subjects. She said the bus has Wi-Fi so most of the team is doing homework on the way to games.

But once the bus gets within a half an hour of the team’s destination, everything changes. Karn said that is when electronics get turned off, music gets turned on and the team starts to focus on the game ahead of them.

“You work hard and have each other to help on homework for probably the first hour, and then the next 30 minutes is just game time,” Karn said.

Now settled into the season, the Blugolds continued play traveling to Duluth, Minn., last Tuesday, beating the College of St. Scholastica (Minn.) in straight sets of 25-22, 25-15 and 25-15. Kelly Riesgraf contributed 11 kills and Jenna Smits had 39 assists.

This upcoming weekend the Blugolds travel to Kenosha to participate in the Carthage tournament. On Friday the team will play Carroll College and Dominican University (Ill.), and on Saturday they will face the University of Chicago (Ill.) and Elmhurst College (Ill.).

This will be the third consecutive weekend tournament for the Blugolds, and during each tournament the team has played two games a day. Coach Wudi said that one goal of the preseason was to improve conditioning through the pre-conference schedule.

Although the team goes to the weight room twice a week and participates in various other conditioning drills, coach Wudi said she does not believe in wasting practice time for conditioning only drills.

“I’m not a big believer in running and conditioning drills that don’t involve a volleyball,” Wudi said.

Next Wednesday marks another chapter in the team’s season, as the Blugolds travel to UW-Lacrosse to start conference play.