Volleyball hits the road to take on Purdue, Illinois

first_imgKRIS UGARRIZA/Herald photoThe Badger volleyball team looks to extend its winning streak as it hits the road to play No. 21 Purdue on Friday and No. 17 Illinois on Sunday.The Badgers are currently on a four-game winning streak with wins over Northwestern and Michigan State on the road last week. The team has improved to third place in the Big Ten with a 14-4 overall record and 4-2 in conference.The Badger recent string of wins comes after UW experienced a terrible first two games in conference play when it lost to Iowa in consecutive sets and to Minnesota 3-1. Now, the Badgers have solidified their lineup and have become used to playing with each other.“It’s all about attitude and mentality,” senior middle blocker Audra Jeffers said. “Every day we come into the gym; the coaches are stressing putting forth 100 percent effort every play. We are just pushing each other a lot harder and playing well as a group.”Much of the Badgers recent success has come because of a more balanced passing attack. Last weekend, no player reached double-digit kills. Jeffers had the most kills during the matches with nine against Michigan State; against Northwestern, six players had six or more kills.“It’s a very tough offense to stop,” head coach Pete Waite said. “We definitely prefer that because if you have three hitters in the front and one out of the back coming at a defense, they are going to struggle with it. We would always rather have the balanced offense and get the win.”The Badger defense has also become stronger. Sophomore libero Kim Kuzma was recently named co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the week. Kuzma is currently ranked six in the Big Ten in digs, averaging 4.15 per game.“Kim has been putting up some big dig numbers,” Waite said. “She is always working hard, very intense on the court.”This weekend, the Badgers will play two very tough defenses. On Friday, the Badgers will play the Boilermakers, who only allow their opponents a .164 hitting percentage, which ranks fourth in the conference.Purdue (14-4, 3-3 Big Ten) is led by senior libero Kelli Miller, who played with Kuzma at Muncie Central in Muncie, Ind. Miller is currently fourth in the Big Ten in digs, averaging 4.30 per game.Sunday’s match against Illinois will prove to be a bigger challenge than Friday’s. The Illini not only have one of the top defenses in the Big Ten, but they also boast the second-highest scorer in the conference.The Illini defense has been stifling its opponents. It ranks third in the Big Ten in opposing hitting percentage and second in digs. Last weekend, the Illini did not give up a set as they swept both Ohio State and No. 22 Michigan 3-0.On offense, the Fighting Illini are led by sophomore outside hitter Laura DeBruler, who ranks second in the Big Ten in kills, averaging 4.41 kills per game. She is also second in the conference in points, averaging 4.98 per game.When preparing for a high-caliber player like DeBruler, the Badgers can do only so much in practice.“We have people mimicking things other people are doing,” Waite said. “You take a DeBruler, and you can’t guess on every shot she is going to hit because she has a thousand of them. So you just kind of prepare for the rest of the team and try to have a balanced offense and defense.”If the Badgers are going to continue their current streak, they are going to need their role players to step it up again. Senior Morgan Salow has gone from getting little time off the bench to being a significant part of the offense. She had a career-high 13 kills against Ohio State two weeks ago.The Badgers will also be going into this weekend with targets on their backs because they are on a long winning streak. However, they do not feel any pressure, and if they play their game, they are confident they will come out on top.“The goal is always to win,” Kuzma said. “Everyone in the Big Ten is good, and going into every weekend we are always focused on the goal to win and play our best.”last_img


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