Volleyball finds tournament victory

    UWEC beats UW-Whitewater, receives spot in NCAA tournament


    Photo by Sam Farley

    The Blugolds came out on top against UW-Whitewater during the WIAC Women’s Volleyball Championship on Saturday.

    The score is 27-26. The crowd at McPhee is on its feet, clapping in anticipation. Despite the noise, the UW-Eau Claire volleyball team is calm. They stand collected on the court; their faces focused on the opponents across the net: the UW-Whitewater Warhawks. The Blugolds serve and the ball and it flies over the net, into Warhawk territory.

    UW-Whitewater struggles to control the ball to set up their offense. After three Whitewater contacts, it ricochets off the top of the net and a Whitewater player is forced to touch the ball a fourth time.

    The cheers precede the referee’s whistle. The scoreboard blinks and the final score is displayed: 28-26, a Blugold win. The team storms the court and embraces.  

    The Blugold volleyball win last Saturday night against UW-Whitewater earned them the WIAC Tournament Championship title. UW-Eau Claire won in four games: 25-22, 25-20, 18-25 and 28-26.

    The win gave the Blugolds an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament. Head Coach Kim Wudi said the team’s success this season can be attributed to great leadership, attitude and resilience.  

    “I think every loss that we’ve had this year has really propelled us forward and taught us a lot. We have a motto: ‘We win or we learn,’” Wudi said during a press conference on Monday. “We make sure that the things that happened to us that caused us to lose don’t happen again.”  

    UW-Eau Claire and UW-Whitewater had met a little over a week ago on Oct. 26. The Blugolds won that match up 3-1. The Blugold’s familiarity with the Warhawk’s offense translated into a strong defensive showing on Saturday.

    UW-Eau Claire both out-blocked and out-dug UW-Whitewater. Taylor Scalia, a second-year defensive specialist, led the team with 21 digs. Kelsey Kowitz and Amber Karn, both fourth-year defensive specialists, followed with 13 and 12 digs, respectively.

    Up at the net, Krista Meyer, a second-year middle hitter, lead the blocking effort with six block-assists. On offense, Meyer recorded a .304 hitting percentage for the night.

    Madelyn Pashibin, a fourth-year, delivered a performance reflecting her WIAC Offensive Player of the Year title that she received earlier in the week. The outside hitter produced 15 kills to lead the team, her strong swing breaking through the Warhawk’s blocks on several occasions.

    Pashibin, who is a biology student, was also named the Judy Kruckman Women’s Volleyball Scholar-Athlete before the game for her achievements in the classroom.

    Arianna Barrett, a first-year outside hitter, added 13 kills with a .458 hitting percentage for the night. Makenzie Bachmann, a second-year outside hitter, collected 12 kills and accumulated 18 digs to help lead the team to victory.

    Saturday’s WIAC triumph is the cherry on top of UW-Eau Claire’s 29-3 season.

    “It’s just been insane,” said Jessica Coyne, a fourth-year outside hitter. “We all get along so well and we just have this shared love for the game. It’s the most fun team I’ve ever been on and it’s a really exciting year knowing how far we can go. I really believe we can make it all the way.”  

    On Friday, the team will face the University of St. Thomas in St. Peter, Minn. for the NCAA regional match. The teams met twice during the regular season. The last matchup — only a few weeks ago — ended in a 3-2 St. Thomas win.

    “They brought one of their best games,” Karn said at the press conference. “We definitely know that we can play against them and the potential. But I think, no matter what, we’re going to go into the game with the same mindset that we go into any other game. We know what we can do.”

    Neupert can be reached at [email protected].