"Over the weekend, we were at Minnesota and Iowa. And at Minnesota, I was encouraged by the way we played. Even though we did lose the match, we took a team who, a week ago, was ranked No. 1 in the country and pushed them each game. We actually held their outside hitters down [to a] hitting percentage that they haven't been at this year, outblocked them. So we saw some good signs and we learned a lot. It's one of those environments you could go in and fold up with a young team, but they did really well. And then at Iowa, I think we did a nice job executing and came out of there with a win.
"This weekend, we've got Indiana and Purdue coming in. Indiana's struggling this year. Purdue is up playing better ball than they have probably in the last 10 years and we're right at the same point in the conference race as they are. We've actually in our, we're 3-3, and three of the losses were against top 10 teams. So, we're at a stretch right here where it's important we win these, so that the next time we see those top-ranked teams, we have a shot at them and try to move up the conference ladder."
Coach, you got a strong weekend out of Maria Carlini. Can you talk about how much she's improved from last year to this year?
"Yeah, Maria's really been coming on. Our left-side errors were struggling with just their hitting percentages and we gave Maria the shot. All last season, she came in and always boosted our team in her blocking and her hitting, and she gets better with each match. Her confidence keeps going up and up. So we're excited about that. She also gives us a bigger block up there. At 6-2, she's very athletic and gets up well on the block."
Pete, is your team still getting used to Katie (Lorenzen) as the setter? It seems like she's playing pretty well.
"Yeah, she is playing very well. Katie's set location has been very good. All this is new for her obviously. This is her, four matches now she's played in her career, so she's learning all the time. Between Katie and Jackie (Simpson), we feel good about both of them and they're actually both big setters--both 6-0, 6-1--with big jumps, they put up a big block. They can set the ball at a high level, taking the pass off the top of the net or well above the top of the net, so we have confidence in both of them. I think we're going to see both of them still down the stretch here quite a bit."
Are you getting the offense you were hoping to get?
"It picked up when Katie got on the court. Actually, with that Northwestern match, when she came in, the hitters started producing much better. Their hitting percentage went up 75 points to 100 points each, which is really good. And that was just a little bit of Jackie was a little inconsistent, as a freshman setter coming in. She'd have some great matches, but then she'd be off, and that's just dealing with, you know, being on campus and traveling to places, and Katie really stepped it up. And with her coming in the courts, we got much better."
It's a little different for you. Normally, you know, you start out relatively quickly. You're in the hunt for the Big Ten. Now you've got to catch up a little bit. And how do you deal with that as a coach and get your players motivated too?
"Well, part of that's scheduling too. When you hit, you know, three, well, the three top teams of the top 10n in the country, and it's a year where they're, you know, the Big Ten's maybe better and stronger at the top than they have in a long time, it's a challenge.
"But at the same time, it's sometimes easier chasing people than it is defending them all the time and holding them off. I think our team's hungry. They're positive about everything. Our depth is getting better. We're getting more defensive specialists on the court, playing some better defense, and passing better. So I think things are starting to come together."
Coach, you were able to get Lindsey Boler on the court against Iowa. She's someone who certainly can be quite impressive in warm-ups and practice. Where is she at right now? Is she someone you can get some contributions going?
"We're hoping so. She's getting better every week. She's got a cannon of arm on her and we're just trying to make sure that cannon's aiming for the court all the time. She's been a little erratic in her first year. Her second year here, she's at every practice, getting a little more consistent with her swing. But there's times, she'll just dominate our practices. And we're seeing that maybe last year, it was once every two weeks, and then in the spring, it was, you know, four or five times in a two-week period. Now it's getting to be two or three times a week and it's getting stronger and stronger. So we're starting to think of her in critical times, so we might see her a little bit more."
Monday Press Conference: Pete Waite
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