Volleyball splits non-conference doubleheader

Blugolds beats Augsburg, loses to St. Olaf
Volleyball won one match and lost another. (Photo by Sagehen Athletics)
Volleyball won one match and lost another. (Photo by Sagehen Athletics)

The UW-Eau Claire volleyball team headed to Minnesota to play in a nonconference doubleheader this past Saturday. 

The Blugolds split the games with a 3-1 victory against Augsburg and a 1-3 loss against St. Olaf, according to Blugold Athletics.

In the first game of the day, the team finished dominant against the Augsburg Auggies, dropping the first set 23-25 before taking the next three 25-20, 26-24 and 26-24.

Despite a tough conference loss the night before to UW-Whitewater, the Blugolds came in strong, using the previous night’s momentum to push them forward. 

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“We were disappointed with the outcome, but the effort and the growth, in terms of our team, certainly was there,” coach Kim Wudi said. “I’m certainly proud of the way the team responded to a disappointing outcome by still playing well.”

Charlie Nelson, a fourth-year setter, led the team in assists throughout the day, recording 25 in each game. She said she needed to continue to be a consistent playmaker, especially in close games.

“It’s definitely a high-pressure position because you’re touching the ball almost every single play, but my teammates help me and give me a ton of confidence,” Nelson said. “Looking to my team in those high-pressure positions definitely helps.”

Avery Pennekamp, a second-year pin, and Darienne Andre, a second-year middle hitter, drove the offense in the first game, each recording 13 kills. Pennekamp stayed consistent across the board, leading the Blugolds in aces with two and digs with 23.

The second matchup of the day saw the Blugolds face a familiar foe in the St. Olaf Oles. After scrimmaging them earlier in the year, Wudi had to prepare around a team that had grown in ability since the last time they’d met on the court. 

“When we scrimmaged them, they didn’t have one of their top players,” Wudi said. “We still had a lot of information on St. Olaf going into Saturday, and I felt like we didn’t execute the game plan like we needed to.”

Despite taking the first set 25-23, the Blugolds eventually fell to the Oles in the final three sets, 17-25, 16-25 and 20-25. 

MacKenzie Houser, a fourth-year defensive specialist, said she is proud of her team for getting ready for each game, especially with a small gap of time in between each one.

“We talk a lot about refueling for the next day and getting rest for the next game,” Houser said. “Our coaches come up with a game plan before every game and have us be prepared overall.”

Bailey Leeke, a sophomore pin, and Pennekamp led the offense with ten and nine kills respectively. Nelson led the Blugolds in assists with 25 and digs with 15. 

With the team being a little over halfway through the season, Wudi said she is looking for the team to keep progressing, especially looking ahead to the conference tournament.

“The first thing is we need to put ourselves in a position to be in the tournament,” Wudi said. “It’s about finding some go-to attackers to score points for us, but then also being consistent so that we’re not beating ourselves.”

Houser and Nelson said they are ready to keep playing hard, looking to help the team reach their full potential, especially towards the end of their senior season. 

“Myself and my other seniors are striving to do our best and end on a good note with our team and our season,” Nelson said.

“As a team, we’re all really focused on each conference game,” Houser said. “It’s my last year so I really want to go out with a bang.”

Blugold volleyball is back on the road this week, first heading to UW-Oshkosh on Wednesday for a conference meet to face the undefeated Titans before facing Carthage College in a non-conference matchup to close out the week. 

Hokanson can be reached at [email protected].

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