Blugolds’ four-game winning streak snapped by Eagles

Volleyball goes 1-1 in conference-play opening weekend


Photo by Anna Mateffy

For head coach Kim Wudi, always believing the team can win and never losing focus is what it means to play Blugold volleyball.

For junior Jenna Smits, losing focus is why she believes the UW-Eau Claire volleyball team lost their match Saturday against UW- La Crosse 3-2.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak.

The Blugolds faced off against the Eagles on Saturday for what seemed like would be a win after two sets.

Eau Claire hit well and won the first two sets 25-20 and 25-11 while only committing a combined four errors compared to La Crosse’s 12.

For the remainder of the match, Eau Claire struggled to find the rhythm it had in the earlier sets and lost the next two sets 25-22 and 25-19.

“We started to lose focus and our mental toughness,” Smits said. “We started to struggle as they put more and more pressure on us.”

Coach Wudi said her team had the mentality they could coast for the win after the second set and learned the hard way that being up 2-0 is not enough.

The match came down to a tiebreaker set, only needing 15 points to take home the win. Eau Claire fought back and being down 14-9, came back to score four in a row before losing 15-13.

“La Crosse had nothing to lose,” Wudi said. “They outhustled and outworked us for three sets, and we couldn’t finish.”

Smits said they weren’t scoring as many points when they had the serve and had difficulty stopping the Eagle’s runs.

“La Crosse earned that win,” Wudi said.” “If we get in that situation again in a future match we must respond differently.”

The La Crosse match was not the first of the weekend, as the Blugolds opened conference play at UW- Superior the night before. Eau Claire gymnasium with its first conference win of the season going 3-0.

While the box score read much closer, the Blugolds hit effectively against the Yellowjackets and pressured them into hitting percentages of .000, .022 and .024.

Smits said Friday’s match wasn’t their best, but they were able to adjust to the opposing offense and made plays on their side of the net.

“We missed quite a bit of serves giving them free points, so we had to work even harder to earn those points back,” Smits said. “We did a great job of stay composed and fighting for each point to win.”

Despite the loss to La Crosse, senior Alexis Wong played at a high level over the weekend. She led the team with a total of 27 kills, including a career-high 16 kills against the Eagles.

Wudi said she has been impressed with Wong’s play and her additional time in both the gym and in practice.

“She struggled at the beginning of the season,” Wudi said. “She worked really hard to make adjustments ,and you’re seeing the results now.”

Wudi said the team expected strong play from Wong this season, and it’s rewarding to not only her but the team to see Wong reach the goals she had set for herself.

Wong was one of six Blugolds to be named an athlete of the week.

Last night, Eau Claire lost to 3rd ranked Stevens Point 3-0 in straight sets, and they will be on the road for a rematch at 7 pm Tuesday against the University of Northwestern (Minn.) Wudi said the break from conference play will not be a break at all.

“We can’t look at that match as any less important than any other, we need to even out our record with them on the season,” Wudi said. “Those kind of matches have implications for playoffs down the road and it’s important for our confidence that we play aggressively and win.”