Volleyball competes in home tournament

Blugolds win one game, lose two
Blugold Volleyball looks to bounce back during their first conference game this week
Blugold Volleyball looks to bounce back during their first conference game this week

In front of a packed home crowd on alumni weekend, Blugold volleyball took the court this past Friday and Saturday during the tenth annual Sandy Schumacher Memorial Tournament held at the McPhee Center.

With a competitive 12 team turnout, they fought point by point against  teams from across the Midwest.  

The Blugolds started out their weekend with a Friday night contest against the St. Catherine University Wildcats, taking them down in three sets: 25-21, 25-19, 25-17.

Bailey Leeke, second-year pre-business student and pin on the team, took a handle on the team’s offense, racking in nine of the team’s 37 kills. Leeke credits her teammates for her offensive success, shouting out teammates who give her opportunities to win points.  

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“There was so much behind the scenes that goes unnoticed,” Leeke said. “Our libero (Sheridan Dettmann) does an amazing job at picking up everything, along with our setter (Ella Kiebel) dishing it right to me where I’m set up for success every time.” 

After a successful first game, the Blugolds returned to the gym the following day to face two more challenging opponents, but this time, the results didn’t produce as much success.

The team dropped the first game of the day to Concordia-Wisconsin, losing 16-25, 25-27 and 21-25 in a three-set loss, according to Blugold Athletics. 

In a quick turnaround, the team came back a few hours later to play against a competitive St. Norbert team. 

The back-and-forth game ended in the fourth set with a loss for the Blugolds. With close set scores of 28-30, 25-20, 24-26 and 26-28, UW-Eau Claire continued to stay close with the opposing side, but eventually fell short during the last match of the day.  

While reflecting on the weekend, Head Coach Kim Wudi said she knows that there is room for improvement, and is quick to recognize the other teams for the pressure they put on her team.  

“Credit to every opponent we play, they bring their best every time,” Wudi said. “When we make our own mistakes, we’re going to struggle no matter who we’re playing.” 

Even with the Blugold losses, many team members put up big numbers on the weekend.

Leeke led the team in kills with 30 while Kiebel and Charlie Nelson fed out assists with 60 and 53 respectively. Leading the way with team digs, Mackenzie Houser handled the back row, bringing in 32 across the three-game span.  

As the Blugolds turn towards the week ahead, they are ready to begin conference play against UW-Stout.  

“We’re excited. Stout is a very competitive team and so are we,” Leeke said. “We’re just excited to go out there and play our own game.” 

Wudi said she is ready to get the team back out there to play competitively after learning from this weekend.  

“Where we’re at with going into conference, I’m excited,” Wudi said. “I think there’s a lot of things we need to clean up on our side of the net.” 

Despite the tough weekend, Wudi said she is honored to be playing in a tournament that is dedicated to a Blugold icon.   

“(Sandy Schumacher) was a pioneer in women’s sports at Eau Claire,” says Wudi. “For me, coming out and playing the best that we can play and honoring her legacy is a really incredible honor. Just taking the court on a tournament that’s named after her.”  

The Schumacher legacy remains as the tournament continues to display competitive volleyball year after year.  

Blugold volleyball returns to action Wednesday, Sept. 20th at 7 p.m. against UW-Stout for their first conference matchup. The game will be played in Menomonie at the Johnson Fieldhouse. 

Hokanson can be reached at [email protected].

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