Monday press conference: Pete Waite

Volleyball coach talks about Aubrey Meierotto's return and facing Illinois and Purdue this weekend

How did Aubrey (Meierotto) look in her first game back from pneumonia? Was she a little rusty or still fatigued?

"She first played against Penn State, and we only got her in a few rotations maybe three or four times during the course of the match, and she was pretty exhausted. She had trouble breathing afterwards. It's not something that was painful for her, but it was just tough to get going. That was our plan to hold her out most of the Penn State match and hope that she recovered with one more night of some good sleep and be ready to go for the Ohio State match, and she played the whole thing, a three-game match and every rotation. She was solid for us and it really helped us. We've missed her."

You know, Pete, I'm sure you were disappointed after the Penn State match, but could you have been any more pleased with the way you came back against Ohio State?

"No, we were really happy with that one. Against Penn State, without Aubrey, we had to change the lineup. We had Audra (Jeffers) on the left. We had Amy Bladow on the right and Aubrey came in for Bladow sometimes, and it's just not our best lineup in rotations, so Saturday was fantastic. They came out hungry, feeling good about things. Ohio State had just gone into Minnesota last weekend and won in three, so we were pretty concerned they were playing some great ball. We served great; we kept them out of their offense, which is very fast. (Setter) Marisa Main had about half as many kills as she normally does, as did (Danielle) Meyer, so we're really pleased with that one."

In Aubrey's absence, did Morgan's (Salow) playing, did her play affect any potential playing time for the future?

"We got a good look at Morgan at Michigan State and at Michigan, and especially at Michigan State — she had eight kills, one error, and hit a high percentage — so that was very good. The thing we needed was blocking. Our team is known for its blocking and that's something she needs to catch up with and get better at. We were looking for a lineup with a little better blocking squad out there. But we got a glimpse of her. She hadn't had much playing time at all during the season, so she got out there for pretty much two full matches and she's got a lot of potential for the future."

So would you be back to your normal lineup this week, do you think? Is Aubrey ready to go then?

"Probably … maybe … we'll see."

But when Aubrey was gone, what did you miss?

"She is a solid server, one of the best on our team. Blocking-wise, even though she's not our biggest player, she's got great location with her hands and stopping their slide offense, which is very hard to do because it will come in quick to you right or fast, wide to your left, and you've got to be able to get both, and she does that. And then just consistent hitting, she was able to score to deep corners, both left and right. We just could count her in critical times, and that's what a senior does for you."

Pete, what makes these matches so important this weekend, in particular Saturday against Purdue?

"Purdue is right with us in the Big Ten race and we went to their place and won in five (games), and they're a solid team. They're better than they ever have been. They've made the biggest surge of any team in the conference in the last two years, and especially this year, so it's a team that's very hungry. They haven't won here for a while … they've got the size, they've got the ball handling, they've got everything you need, so that one's huge.

"And even Illinois on Friday night … Illinois is playing a lot better than when we saw them down at their place. Down at their place, they were struggling with some injuries and some departures within their program. And now they've changed setters. They're a faster offense and they're feeling good about themselves. They just got the wins over Michigan State and Michigan last weekend at their place, so we know they're going to be tough too."

Coach, in the Big Ten standings, Penn State's starting to run away with the conference a little bit. Did the team's goals for the season change at all now that you're falling a little further back?

"You still pursue the Big Ten Championship and you hope that somebody plays spoiler for you and does something with Penn State. But in the meantime, we have to take care of our own matches, and we know that we're done with Penn State at this point for the regular season. There's a possibility we could see them in post-season play, so we have to be ready and be a better team by the time we see them again."

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