Badgers drop volleyball opener

Wisconsin's youth shows; inconsistent play unravels in 3-1 loss

MADISON—Wisconsin volleyball coach Pete Waite new there would be days like this. With 10 first- or second-year players among the 15 on his roster, the 2004 Badgers are going to struggle with inconsistent play at times.

After three grueling games and a fourth that ended in embarrassment for No. 23 Wisconsin, the Missouri Tigers proved to be the more consistent volleyball team Friday night and walked away with a 3-1 victory at the UW Field House. It was the season opener for both teams.

"We started with a terrible game and finished with a terrible game and played some good ball in between," Waite said. "They played more steadily than we did, they weren't as up and down."

Missouri set the tempo early and took advantage of Wisconsin's inconsistencies in serving and their 13 attack errors that were committed in the first game. The Tigers kept a commanding lead over the Badgers in the later stages of the game and easily came away with the 30-19 victory.

During the start of the second game, it looked as though Missouri was quickly going to go up 2-0. After tying the game 1-1 the Lions rattled off four straight points including two consecutive kills by junior outside hitter Shen Danru. The Badgers then found the intensity they needed thanks to the hustle provided by senior outside hitters Jill Odenthal and Marian Weidner. Both tallied five kills and Odenthal contributed five digs as the Badgers took the second game 30-25.

Game three ended up in a back and forth battle that extended beyond the normal 30 points needed for victory. After taking a 29-28 lead, Missouri needed six game points before it finally put away the third game, 37-35, off a kill by freshman outside hitter Na Yang.

That was the final blow for Wisconsin and the fourth game belonged to Missouri. Even before the game started, the Lions came onto the court fired up while the Badgers appeared to be wiped out from the previous game. Wisconsin quickly fell behind 8-3 and Waite called a time out to re-focus his team but at that point, the win was already Missouri's. Wisconsin never got closer than five points and the Lions closed out the final game 30-13. The Badgers' sloppy performance resulted in seven attack errors and only seven kills compared to Missouri's 19.

"The last game for us was pretty embarrassing, we just broke down in a couple of categories," Waite said. "It's not even things I'd look at statistically on the paper it's just each category. People were playing individually and we didn't play well as a team."

"We definitely broke down on our passing," Odenthal said, regarding the team's lackluster performance in the fourth game. "All of the little things that we had been working through together really came apart. We can't blame it on any one person or any single play, but we went through spurts where we could just not put plays together."

The Tigers received outstanding performances from a number of players. Sophomore outside hitter Jessica Vander Kooi contributed a game-high 18 kills while Danru and Yang contributed 15 and 14, respectively. Defensively, freshman libero Tatum Ailes tallied a game-high 18 digs. For the Badgers, Weidner and Odenthal contributed 16 and 14 kills, respectively.

Though the team did not start out the season as expected, the Badgers did get to debut three true freshmen, two of which started the game. Libero Jocelyn Wack and setter Jackie Simpson made their starting debut while middle blocker Taylor Reineke played minimal time. Wack finished with nine digs and Simpson contributed 13 digs and 48 assists.

Wisconsin will not have much time to search for that much needed consistency. They will get right back into it at the Badger Challenge on Saturday when they face No. 12 Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. The Yellow Jackets lost to Purdue Friday night.

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