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Badgers limp into final nonconference tourney

first_imgThe Wisconsin volleyball team will try to shake the memory of its first loss of the season last Friday and travel to the N.C. State Invitational this weekend to face three NCAA-contention teams.The Badgers (8-1) will play in its last slate of nonconference matches on Friday and Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., including matches against two teams that competed in the NCAA tournament a season ago in NC State and Colgate. Wisconsin’s matches against NC State, Virginia Commonwealth University and Colgate will all come within a 24-hour period.For Wisconsin, the focus this week will once again to be to stay healthy. Senior Annemarie Hickey was the latest victim of the Badger injury carousel with an injured ankle. Head coach Kelly Sheffield says she will most likely not be playing this weekend after missing the InnTower Invitational last weekend.“We’re trying to get healthy,” Sheffield said. “Our practices aren’t that long because we don’t have that many bodies. Health has to be priority number one.”Sheffield said that in addition to shorter practices this week, the team will be less involved with jumping-related activity to give bruised bodies a rest and more focused on studying film. So far this season, six Badgers have missed at least three matches due to injury.Wisconsin’s first contest of the weekend will be tournament host NC State, a team that returns six of its seven starters from last year’s NCAA team. Like Wisconsin, NC State was a ranked team and an undefeated 6-0 until last weekend when it dropped its first match of the year to 11-0 Missouri.Although not an NCAA tournament competitor from last season, VCU (8-2) is 6-1 in matches on neutral sites this year. VCU sophomore Romana Kriskova has been named the Atlantic 10 Conference’s Volleyball Player of the Week for the second straight week. The 6-foot-3 Slovakian leads her team with nearly five kills per set, attack percentage and blocks, while also contributing 1.77 digs per set.Wisconsin will wrap up its weekend in a battle with 6-3 Colgate. With the exception of a 0-3 loss to Missouri, Colgate has only lost to Yale and LIU Brooklyn, teams that were playing on their own courts for their respective tournaments.Sheffield said this weekend’s matches will prove especially challenging given the lack of depth of the current Wisconsin lineup. However, he was encouraged that the beleaguered Badgers were able to make a strong comeback after losing the tournament opener to Kansas in five sets last Friday.“It was a great opportunity for our team for all of us to see what we’re made out of,” Sheffield said. “To turn around and bounce back and get a couple of wins. That was something I learned about this team.”One player in particular that helped Wisconsin manage bounce-back victories over the weekend was junior Deme Morales. Morales played outside hitter in place of the injured Hickey. She notched a career-high 17 kills against Kansas and recorded double-doubles with kills and digs against both Kansas and Milwaukee. Along with junior outside hitter Ellen Chapman, Morales was named to the all-tournament team.Even playing a position she hasn’t practiced, Morales said that she did what she had to for Wisconsin to stay competitive.“Every team has to adjust to adversity,” Morales said. “We just have to keep having this mentality that no matter who goes in, it’s going to have the same outcome. And we have to trust the people that go in and have confidence in them, and they need to have confidence in themselves.”Chapman said it’s been necessary for players to take on their secondary positions because of the number of injuries. During the summer, Chapman practiced in preparation to play middle hitter, even though she is currently managing both outside hitter positions.She said Sheffield likes juggling lineups to try to find the best fit, and for that reason, Chapman said it has been valuable having a team that’s flexible in their positions.“We have a lot of people on our team that can play multiple positions,” Chapman said. “That’s a really good thing about our team, which sets us apart from other ones because we have players that can step in anywhere.”Sheffield said one of the most important things the team is working on is chemistry. He said in team chemistry is even more vital in volleyball because of how fast-paced the game is and how little space a volleyball court has.Sheffield said it’s difficult to manage team flow when so many players have gone down with injuries.When asked if he’s ever seen as many injuries as the Badgers have suffered, he jokingly said the reason might be supernatural.“I hear there’s a high population of witch doctors and voodoo dolls here in the Madison area,” Sheffield said. “I’m convinced that’s the play of wickedness and some kind of dark evil.”last_img read more