"We had a pretty tough match at Minnesota on Friday. After splitting the first two games, we weren't playing great but we were doing some good things. (We) came to the third game and came from far behind--I think we were up 28-27 and we had a couple service errors (which) kind of threw us off right there and gave the points right back. Had we won that game in the third, I think it would have been a much different match. After that, we had a really hard time trying to keep up with them. Their physicality kind of shined through. We had trouble stopping (Erin) Martin, who is just a great jumper. That was probably the best match I've seen her play in the last two years.
"Overall though, we got a split on the weekend (and) beat Iowa. We were a little flat coming out. It was a little tough emotionally at Minnesota (and then) to come back at Iowa and get the win in three is pretty good. We're still only one game behind Minnesota though. We have to tell the team that this weekend—Michigan and Michigan State--is huge for us. We still need to finish up the Big Ten season as best we can (and) hope somebody else knocks off Minnesota, and we'll still have a shot at the title, but its going to be tough. Michigan and Michigan State are very, very good teams. We lost at Michigan State and went five with Michigan so we know it's going to be a battle."
After your Minnesota match, the Minnesota coach Mike Hebert said he thought that looking at your schedule the rest of the way was favorable so he thought the race was far from over. Do you agree with that?
"Any time I look at our schedule, I look at the Big Ten teams and only Iowa has been struggling this year. The rest are all teams that can beat anybody. The fact that Minnesota did lose to Indiana and Purdue to start the season really threw things off, so that does mean they have a little tougher schedule than we do to finish up. But still, match in and match out, there is going to be tough teams here and we've got to take care of our business as best we can and hope that somebody else helps us out. "
Pete, are you still finding players to sprinkle in even though you're this deep into the season? I saw that (Maria) Carlini played pretty well.
"Yea, Carlini's been coming in on a regular basis and giving us a bigger block and giving us real steady defense and passing so she's really been a nice surprise for us. We've put her in the middle sometimes and sometimes on the right for (Jill) Odenthal. So she's done well. Kirin Swanson's one that we've seen a little bit here and there, that she might be the next person stepping in and doing a good job for us. We've been using Marian Weidner on a regular basis and then also making the switch of (Lisa) Zukowski to libero when needed. And that's really a great burst for us late in the match where she might be getting really tired. It lets her settle down and pass for us and gives (Marian) Weidner and chance to swing and be a bigger block. I like the variety we have, and we've got a little bit of depth so that benefits us in the long run."
Be it mental or physical, what's the most important thing that your team needs to do better down the stretch here to be successful in the Big Ten and as you head towards the playoffs?
"I think it's being consistent in our ball handling from here on out and our serving. That's something that we're leading our conference--in our serving. But if we have an off night on that, that's a part where we're not taking an opponent out of their offense. That's the thing, as a smaller team that we are, a team that stays in their offense can attack us at the net a little bit more. So if we serve well and then ball handle and dig, I think we can use our speed and beat people. And the nights we do that, we're a very good team."
Coach, with the tough game you had against Minnesota and then to come back and beat Iowa the next day, how important is that confidence-wise now going into the rest of the season that you're able to do that?
"It was big and we really started slowly against Iowa. We were down six or seven points to start the first game and we were not playing very good ball. It was pretty sloppy. We tried to tell the team that that could happen -- there might be a let down (but) let's avoid that. Let's try to get a big point spread and it didn't go as planned. So we really had to battle back and we were lucky to get that first game. Once we got the first game, we started playing better and smooth things out. It was almost a good way to start off getting going into this week now. They have no trouble getting up for Michigan and Michigan State. Those are two very good teams that we've always battled with and it's going to be great -- great for the crowds. Our crowd has pushed us through a number of times this year, so it's been fantastic."
Pete, you've got 16 wins, you're ranked 20th, and you're second in the Big Ten. Is there any way that Wisconsin won't host any NCAA tournament matches?
"I think we will and I think again our crowd is a big part of that. The coaches' poll doesn't mean that much when they start making selections. I think a lot of it comes down to where you are in your conference and then what your attendance figures are. I think they really want people to be coming out to the matches. So right now, if we can finish high in the Big Ten, in the first two or three, then we've got a great shot at hosting the first and second rounds."
Will the Camp Randall construction effect your hosting in the NCAA tournament?
"No, it won't because we'll be playing in the Kohl Center if that happens. That's already been planned."
I didn't see the full box score from the Iowa match, but did Jill Odenthal play the whole time?
"She started the match for us and
then I would have to check also to see if part way through the first, we subbed
her out. It wasn't necessarily her fault that the team wasn't doing well but
Maria just comes in a does some nice things and steadies us out. So once she's
in there doing well, I don't see a need to change."