Blugold women’s volleyball playoff run ends

    Volleyball wins opener, but falls in tournament’s second round

    More stories from Sam Martinez


    Photo by Sam Martinez

    Keagan Kinsella, Jenna Smits, Hannah Theisen and Talia Jaskulske await the serve against the Pointers.

    After a 27-win season, an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament and two players earning all-conference honors, the UW-Eau Claire volleyball team’s season ended with a 3-1 loss to Bethel University (Minn.) last Friday.

    The loss came in the national tournament’s second round in UW-Whitewater’s region of the bracket.

    Head coach Kim Wudi said the team was happy to be back competing at that level. Being in the tournament is great experience for the young players, she said, and it means a lot for the departing seniors.

    “For (the seniors) to finish their careers at that level, it was special for them,” Wudi said.

    The team started tournament play on Thursday with a 3-1 victory over Gustavus Adolphus College (Minn.), snapping their opponent’s 27-match winning streak.

    Senior Kelly Riesgraf, juniors Katrina Raskie and Keagan Kinsella and sophomore Emily Miller all recorded at least 10 kills in the first round victory, and senior setter Jenna Smits had 48 assists.

    The team won the first set against the Royals, but dropped the next three sets and lost the match 3-1. The Royals went on to win the Whitewater section of the tournament and advance to the elite eight next weekend.

    Wudi said the team overcame a lot this season, and earning an at-large bid was a testament to the 26-9 regular-season record they put together.

    At the end of the season five Blugolds received all-conference awards. Smits and Raskie were named first team all-conference, Riesgraf was honorable mention all-conference, sophomore Talia Jaskulse was named to the all-defensive team and senior Hannah Theisen was on the all-sportsmanship team.

    Wudi said going forward, the team will have to be playing their best volleyball at the end of the season to put themselves in a position to win it.

    The team is losing seniors Smits, Riesgraf, Theisen, Julia Burzynski and Jamie Dimka.

    Wudi said the seniors played valuable roles for the team, but said the team’s strength is depth, which will help the team move forward next season.

    “A lot of players on our roster would be starting as freshmen at other universities,” Wudi said.

    With the season over, Wudi said the coaching staff will be meeting with players and setting off-season goals that include skill development, weight training and other health-related objectives.

    The team will regroup for a non-competitive spring practice session to help ensure players are not taking steps backward, but Wudi said the off-season will allow the players to get some rest.

    “In Division III, teams have a true off-season,” Wudi said.

    But next season the goal will be get back to the national tournament and get farther than before, as Wudi said her teams have won two games before, but never three to make it into the elusive elite eight.