"I think we had a good weekend on the road against Purdue and Indiana. Purdue had been beating a lot of teams. They've got a new coach, a young team, and they've just been playing great so it was a good win on the road there. The next night we were a little more flat against Indiana, but still hung in there and had a good match. Aubrey Meierotto had 25 kills, which was awesome. For her to come through, she's been a little sick these past two weeks so that was a great situation for us. Now heading into this weekend—this is a huge weekend for us with Penn State and Ohio State. All the Big Ten teams are beating up on each other right now. We've got four teams at a 6-2 tie. It is going to be tough. Penn State obviously has a great winning tradition. We have a great rivalry with them. Ohio State is a little down this year—they are 2-6, but at the same time they take Minnesota to five games. Anytime you have Stacey Gordon on the court—she was national Freshman of the Year two years ago—they're an awesome team. So it is going to be a great weekend for us and a big one for us in conference play."
You mentioned Penn State's winning tradition. When you looked at your schedule at the beginning of the season and your team, did you see this potentially as being a match up that could be about first place this early on?
"You always know it is going to be a battle, but you never know who is going to be at the top. We and Penn State were picked to be in the top three or four, so we knew it would be tough. This early in the season, we had no idea that everyone would be beating up people, losing to other people that you just don't suspect. Illinois had a huge weekend with two wins. Minnesota went and beat up Penn State on their home floor 3-0 and nobody expected that. So I think it is just a strange year where it is a lot of very even teams."
Coach, you've talked about all year looking for an additional person on offense to step up in addition to (Jill) Odenthal and (Aubrey) Meierotto. Is that the case here or are you still searching for a extra help on offense?
"Actually, our subs are doing a great job. We've got some people coming off the bench. Marian Weidner is doing a great job. We are using her and also Maria Carlini, who is coming and sometimes spelling Odenthal. So I think we are seeing the depth of our bench is getting stronger. Obviously Maria is just a freshman but she is stepping in and putting up a bigger block for us and doing some great things offensively. So we feel better about that and I think that is kind of where we are settling in to things. In the last two weeks we have seen who will step up when we need them, because not everybody can be on every night. You've got exams, midterms, health…we went though an illness as far as some sicknesses these last two weeks going through the team, so I think we are feeling more healthy, we are past the exams, so it should be a great weekend."
Pete, of the four teams (Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota) that are tied for first place, is there anyone that you think is better than the other three?
"Minnesota is coming on strong. They had a slow start and it surprised everybody when they lost at Purdue and Indiana to start the Big Ten season. But they are tough and they are the most physical team on the schedule. They are going to be the ones to catch I think, especially after their win at Penn State. It shows how strong they are. But at the same time, Ohio State, who is down at the bottom half of the conference took them to five and it just shows that anybody can do it on any given day."
Did you expect Aubrey Meierotto to play the way she's played for you this year?
"I say yes because I know she is a great hitter – just a real terminator. Obviously she has taken the last two years just to get healthy with her knees, but the strength coaches and our athletic trainers have done an awesome job getting her ready to go, so she is training every day with us, where two years ago she couldn't go two days in a row with us. She is just amazing and we are learning what she needs as far as sets, as far as on the net, and when you do give her the best set she is almost unstoppable."
Coach, you mentioned health before. Is (Jill) Odenthal's arch still bothering her?
"No, she has gotten some orthodics and she is
feeling better, so she is OK."