"I thought that was a good start to the tournament for us," Waite said. "Northern Iowa's a scrappy team. They made some great plays and played some great defense (and) just kept battling to the end."
Wisconsin was challenged in the first game as Northern Iowa stuck around for the early part. Panthers middle blocker Ashten Stelken led the way in the opening game with six kills, but the Badgers were able to break away with a 6-2 run at the end.
But that challenge was what Waite wanted to better prepare his team for the rest of the tournament.
"You don't want somebody who's easy and you don't have to work hard," Waite said. "They just always battle."
Northern Iowa was a couple of breaks from changing the outcome of the game. If that were to happen, Panthers coach Bobbi Petersen thinks the result match may have been different, too.
"I think it would've been a lot different because you put their team on their heels a little bit," Petersen said. "To steal a game, it'd put a little bit of doubt in their minds … that would've been a big swing."
"(Wisconsin) has so many weapons that they're a hard team to defend," Northern Iowa setter Kristin Belzung said. "There's not room to make mistakes."
The Panthers ended up making too many — they had 17 attack errors and seven service errors.
UW libero Joceyln Wack didn't make things any easier for UNI, leading the Badgers' defense with 25 digs — good for second in school history for a three-game match.
And it was the defense that helped Wisconsin get things going on offense.
"I think the fact that we outdug them 52-39 got our offense transition going and Jackie (Simpson) was able to connect with the middles pretty well and get the ball to the outside," Waite said.
Next up for Wisconsin is Iowa State in the second round Saturday night. The Cyclones, who are coached by former UW assistant coach Christy Johnson, defeated the No.16 San Diego Toreros in five games Friday.