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UW trying to keep pace in Big Ten title hunt

first_imgWith last weekend’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Michigan Wolverines, the University of Wisconsin volleyball team may have coughed up its chances for a Big Ten title this season.The Badgers fell to 8-2 in conference play, but currently still manage to hold sole possession of second place, with Purdue, Ohio State and Minnesota nipping at their heels.Atop the conference is undefeated Penn State at 10-0 and the question remains: Can the Nittany Lions be caught by season’s end?Minnesota, currently in fifth place at 6-4, lost at Wisconsin and Purdue, but really lost ground in the conference race after dropping home matches to both Penn State and Ohio State this weekend.Ohio State could still be in second place if it hadn’t dropped an unsuspecting home match to Illinois earlier this season, but is a game behind the Badgers in third.Tied for third with the Buckeyes are the Purdue Boilermakers, who have lost to the usual suspects — Penn State and Ohio State — on the road, and to Wisconsin at home.Penn State, however, looks almost unbeatable as it has stomped over every conference foe — the only Big Ten match the Nittany Lions haven’t won in three games was against Purdue at home, in which they edged out the Boilermakers 3-2.Even Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite acknowledged that it will be a hard task for his team to claim first place in the Big Ten with the way Penn State has been playing.”It’s going to be tough (to catch Penn State),” Waite said. “We walk out there just trying to win every match and just trying to hang in there. Sometimes you have to deal with illnesses and injuries and that makes it a tough road trip. Penn State’s playing some great ball; they went into Minnesota and really gave them a good kicking. They seem to be on top of their game, so we’re going to have to be ready to go this weekend and try to get them on their home court.”A tough road trip would be an understatement in describing the Badgers’ past weekend. Waite’s club traveled to the Great Lakes State without senior co-captain Aubrey Meierotto, who sat out with pneumonia, and split a pair of matches. Wisconsin managed to beat Michigan State in five games last Friday night before succumbing to Michigan one day later.”We missed [Meierotto] a ton,” Waite said. “She’s our points leader overall from last year and that’s blocking, hitting, serving and attitude on the court, and that’s something that was tough to adjust to. We were still right in there in both of those matches — we won the first (versus Michigan State) and were at 14-14 in the fifth for the second (versus Michigan), but sometimes [Meierotto’s] our closer and maybe she could’ve gotten the job done for us there.”Meierotto is back at practice this week, but has yet to step on the court. Her status for this weekend is still uncertain, but if she’s unable to play, Waite knows he can turn to freshman Morgan Salow, who started in place of Meierotto this past weekend.”[Salow] did well, especially on Friday night,” Waite said. “She hadn’t played a full game all year and that’s a tough role to step into, but she battled and I thought everybody stepped up a lot. Now we’re just going to have to see for this weekend if Aubrey is ready to go and if not, then we’re a little more prepared than we were last week.”Salow led the Badgers with a .350 hitting percentage against Michigan State with eight kills on 20 attempts and only one error, plus one service ace. She added four kills and a career-best four blocks against Michigan.The 6-foot-4 outside hitter’s first start was definitely a confidence booster for the true freshman.”It was a lot of fun,” Salow said. “It was a really good experience for me. I was really nervous coming in and I just thought during the Michigan State game halfway through I was like, ‘You know, I’m just going to do my best and do as well as I can.'”But sitting out another two matches will be a hard thing for Meierotto to do if she cannot return to the lineup.”It’s really hard (to sit out),” Meierotto said. “Especially senior year, it’s something that just kills you. Sitting out even in practice and watching your team play is a really hard thing to do. It’s been a pretty tough two weeks for me.”And the biggest way to make up for her absence and the team’s performance last weekend would be to come back and beat Penn State and Ohio State on the road this Friday and Saturday.”Beating Penn State on the road would be a huge, huge accomplishment for our team,” Meierotto said. “They’re a really good team, so we know that’s going to be a really big battle so we’re going to have to go in there really aggressive.”last_img read more