Volleyball falls in the second round of playoffs

The team ends the season with a 16-14 record
Despite winning the first round, the Blugolds fell in the next game. (Photo by Zach Jacobson, used with permission from Blugold Athletics)
Despite winning the first round, the Blugolds fell in the next game. (Photo by Zach Jacobson, used with permission from Blugold Athletics)

The UW-Eau Claire women’s volleyball team fell to No. 2 UW-Oshkosh in the second round of the conference playoffs on Thursday, ending their 2023 season. 

The team started out the week strong on Tuesday, upsetting UW-Stevens Point in the first round. With a final score of 3-1, the Blugolds ran through the Pointers, finishing with set scores of 25-20, 20-25, 27-25 and 25-22. 

Bailey Leeke and Avery Pennekamp led the way on offense, racking up 16 and 14 kills respectively. Charlie Nelson led the team with 43 assists while Sherridan Dettman handled the back row with 20 digs. 

With the second round continuing a few days later, the team had a very quick turnaround. 

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“We knew we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare between Tuesday and Thursday,” coach Kim Wudi said. “We really just focused on things on our side of the court to put ourselves in the best position to win.”

The Blugolds then headed to UW-Oshkosh on Thursday to take on the undefeated Titans with the hope of continuing on. 

Ultimately, the team’s fight wasn’t enough as they fell in three sets, 15-25, 21-25 and 20-25. 

Leeke once again led the team offensively, recording 13 kills. Nelson led the team in assists with 28 and Dettman finished with a team-high 26 digs. 

The loss meant the end of careers for the five seniors on the team: Nelson, Dettmann, MacKenzie Houser, Selena Levendoski and Maren Saunders.

Dettman, a fifth-year libero, was one of the remaining seniors who was a part of the 2021 National Championship team, an honor she said she will always hold close to her heart. 

“Winning the National Championship was definitely one of my greatest accomplishments and will continue to impact me for the rest of my life,” Dettman said. “It has drastically changed my view of sports, relationships and life, and has taught me about the importance of teamwork.”

Saunders, a middle hitter, said she felt fulfilled as a fifth-year student leading the front row. She used the knowledge she had learned from players before her while also passing it down to her younger teammates. 

“Getting to lead the middle blocker group this year allowed me to step into a leadership role in ways I never thought I could,” Saunders said. “I have been able to watch my teammates grow through hardships into amazing people, which has been one of my favorite things this season.”

Looking ahead, Wudi said it will be impossible to fill the shoes of the seniors and will look to the other players to step up. 

“Every single person on our team is irreplaceable,” Wudi said. “Our main goals will be to find players to step up and fit the roles in each statistical category.”

Although sad about completing her career, Dettman said she is proud of how far the team has come and what they have continued to accomplish. 

“We did a lot of good things throughout the season and made lots of great memories and friendships that will last for the rest of our lives,” Dettman said. “At the end of the day, that is what really matters.”

For Saunders, this marks the end of an era, one in which she said she was happy to represent the Blugolds. 

“The best advice I can give to a young Blugold athlete is: never give up and believe in yourself,” Saunders said. “Soak up every moment you can of representing UW-Eau Claire as a student-athlete. The days will be long, but the years are short, and it will be over before you know it.”

As the season ends, Wudi said she looks to reach their potential and build towards the future.

“The standard doesn’t change,” Wudi said. “I’m really proud of the way the team finished this season. I felt that we made a lot of progress.”


Hokanson can be reached at [email protected].

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