Preview: 2008 Wisconsin Volleyball

After reaching the second round of last year's NCAA tournament, Wisconsin volleyball opens its season this afternoon with its sights set on a conference crown and a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

MADISON - Wisconsin returns four starters from last year's team that went 26-5 and finished second in the Big Ten Conference with a 17-3 record. Head coach Pete Waite returns for his 10th season at Wisconsin and his 21st year overall, sporting records of 228-67 at UW and 494-169 overall.

One of the four returning starters is junior Brittney Dolgner, who was a unanimous selection to the 2008 Preseason All-Big Ten team and was one of three players who were unanimous selected to the team. Dogner was a second-team All-American last year after leading the Badgers in kills per set for the second year in a row (she also ranked third in the Big Ten with 4.63 kills per set). Dolgner is a two-time first-team All-Big Ten honoree and also picks up her second preseason honor.

Senior Audra Jeffers was also named to the 12-person honor team, her second-career preseason honor after being named to the 2006 team. The team's top returning blocker, Jeffers ranked second on the team and ninth in the Big Ten with 1.25 blocks per set in 2007. Jeffers is a three-year starter and serves as the Badgers' team captain this season.

Reigning NCAA champion Penn State (34-2 in 2007) is picked to win a record sixth consecutive Big Ten title in 2008. The Nittany Lions return all seven starters from last year's national championship squad. Pick to finish third in the conference behind Penn State and Minnesota, Wisconsin was 26-5 overall in 2007 and placed second in the Big Ten at 17-3.

Wisconsin opens its season this afternoon at the Kentucky Classic in Lexington, playing three games in the next two days. With 11 games in Wisconsin's non conference schedule, Waite is hoping to accomplish a variety of things before opening conference play on September 26.

"Number one, we have to establish our lineup," he said. "Right now, we're still searching for what's going to work best, and we won't know until we play some opponents and just see who can be battle tested out there. We've got some veterans. Like I said, some have played quite a bit, but some are seniors now and they haven't been on the court a whole lot, so they're finding out that you've got to work a lot harder on the court than when you're on the sidelines cheering everybody on. And they're ready for it, they're really excited."

Other Notes:

Wisconsin returns nine letter winners and four starters from 2007. The Badgers have three seniors on this year's squad—Faye McCormack, Audra Jeffers and Morgan Salow.

Dolgner needs just 48 kills to become the 17th UW player to record 1,000 kills in a career. She will be the fastest player to achieve that milestone.

Head coach Pete Waite begins his 10th season as Badgers' head coach. He needs just six wins for career victory No. 500.

Wisconsin faces six teams that were ranked or receiving votes in the final 2007 CSTV/AVCA poll. Those teams are: No. 1 Penn State, No. 12 BYU, No. 19 Michigan, No. 20 Michigan State as well as Purdue and UNLV, that received votes in the final 2007 poll.

Senior Audra Jeffers will serve as the 2008 team captain.

Wisconsin's recruiting class was ranked the ninth best in the nation by Volleyball Magazine. Elle Ohlander and Janelle Gabrielsen were named Volleyball Fab 50 selections. Also joining the Badgers will be Kelsey Maloney, Katie Schill and Sally Shumaker.

At 6-6, freshman Ohlander will be the tallest Badger to ever put on a volleyball uniform.

After leading the Badgers in kills as a freshman and sophomore, Dolgner could become just the fourth player to lead the UW three straight seasons. She averaged 4.63 per game as sophomore, which ranked fourth in the Big Ten, and 4.12 kills per game as a freshman.

In just two years, Dolgner is averaging 4.37 kills per game, which ranks first on the UW career record list.

For the first time in program history, all UW volleyball matches will be broadcast on the Madison airwaves. All home and away matches will air on The Mic 92.1 (WXXM-FM) with Jon Arias providing the play by play.

Wisconsin returns five of its top six hitters from 2007—Dolgner (4.63 kills per game), Jeffers (2.51), Caity DuPont (2.51), Katherine Dykstra (2.49) and Allison Wack (2.21).

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