first_imgMATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photoAt this weekend’s InnTower Invitational, the No. 13 University of Wisconsin volleyball team tipped off its home season in fine fashion in the last bit of nonconference action before the Big Ten season begins next weekend.The Badgers opened the tournament somewhat out of form on Friday, struggling to gain a sizeable lead on the Wildcats of Villanova early on, but head coach Pete Waite attributed the rusty play to his team’s excitement to open up its home schedule in front of the crowd of 3,194 on UW Student Night.”I think our team was a little too pumped up to start,” Waite said. “We were banging balls out of bounds and a little out of our zone, but once they settled into place, they played some nice ball.”Wisconsin soon went on a 5-0 run and never looked back, easily defeating Villanova in three matches (30-21, 30-10, 30-18). The Badgers also swept Valparaiso (30-21, 30-21, 30-22) Saturday night.The main event of the weekend, however, was undoubtedly Sunday’s match that pitted UW against the No. 11 UCLA Bruins.Led by tournament MVP Sheila Shaw and all-tournament team members Jocelyn Wack and Jackie Simpson, Wisconsin edged out the Bruins in game one with a 30-26 win.Wisconsin was able to capitalize on a number of 4-0 runs in the first victory, but the key was the team’s defensive play on the net, with Simpson and sophomore Taylor Reineke teaming up for five blocks.”[Blocking] depends who you’re matched up with, what kind of shots they have,” Waite said. “I think our kids were really disciplined with what they were doing and that can really make a team struggle, it’ll make them try some different shots they’re not used to.”The Badgers’ intensity almost ran dry in game two as they found themselves down 16-22, but after a time-out and with Jackie Simpson up to serve, Wisconsin went on a 8-0 run en route to a thrilling 30-28 win.”Mainly passing and defense [was they key in that run],” co-captain Aubrey Meierotto said. “We knew that if we dug some balls, we could definitely take care of things offensively and that’s what we started to do towards the end of that game.””I think we were definitely going out aggressive,” she added. “Everything was just big swings, big plays up at the net.”UCLA head coach Andy Banachowski, on the other hand, accredited the Badgers’ run to his team’s weak rotation and passing game.”We had a good run where we got them in trouble and were able to keep picking up points and then we just got stuck in our rotation and we’ve had problems like that,” Banachowski said. “We don’t pass well enough to really make our offense a threat. We become very predictable and against a good blocking team like this, they can really shut you down and score points in a hurry.”The Bruins, much like Wisconsin, boast a very young team and are trying to replace two All-Americans in setter Krystal McFarland and libero Chrissie Zartman. They were also playing their match against UW without key middle blocker Meghan Schoen, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament Saturday and will probably be out for the rest of the season.Riding high off the emotions of their game two run, the Badgers sealed the deal with a 30-23 win in the third and final game.A key for the Badgers’ three-game sweep of the Bruins was keeping 6-foot-1 junior middle blocker Nana Meriwether off her scoring game. Meriwether came into the weekend averaging 3.57 kills per game, but Wisconsin limited her to only four total kills in the match.”With our scouting report, the blockers knew that she was a big threat and they needed to stay on the setter and Meriweather at the same time,” Waite said. “So our goal was just touch balls because she’s such a big jumper, she just went over us sometimes, but it comes down to serving and also our attacking. If we’re attacking strong, it keeps the setter off the net. If they can’t dig it near the net again then she can’t find the middle so it’s just a combination of things.”With the weekend sweep, Wisconsin improves to 8-1 on the season heading into its Big Ten opener, a home date with a talented Minnesota currently ranked No. 5 in the nation.”We’re going for Minnesota now to start off [the Big Ten season] with a bang,” Waite said. “We’ll need to take a day off and then get ready for Minnesota.”last_img