Offensive woes continue as losing streak reaches 5

first_imgJanelle Gabrielsen (6) lets out her frustration during UW\’s loss to Minnesota.[/media-credit]Kill percentage in volleyball can often times be compared to batting average in baseball. Just like a .300 average is an indication of a good baseball player, that same number is a mark of quality for a volleyball player as well.But Sunday afternoon at the Field House, the Wisconsin volleyball team didn’t come close to that mark, hitting a measly .026 in its three-set loss to the rival Golden Gophers.The loss pushes the Badgers’ season-high losing streak to five games, and in three of those matches, Wisconsin was unable to take a set from its opponent.Evidently, the Badgers’ biggest problem has been their inability to convert on the attack. Against Minnesota, Wisconsin tallied 36 kills — one more than the Gophers — but once again, the Badgers’ attack errors were devastating in the Minnesota sweep. The Badgers had 33 attack errors compared to only 16 from the Gophers.“Our ball control was not with us today,” UW head coach Pete Waite said. “I think over the course of the entire match, you look at our hitting percentage and it’s way too low to compete in the Big Ten. So, we have to come together here in the next couple of matches coming up and clean things up.”But not only was the ball control lacking Sunday but over the past five games. That fact can only be exemplified by the team’s losing streak, something it had yet to experience before losing to Ohio State on Nov. 7. Before that loss, the Badgers had not lost more than two games in a row all season, but that trend has abruptly ended.“Somehow, I think the group needs to find a way and find the leaders who are going to step up and do that, because it’s something that, this late in the season, we should be playing better ball than we played today,” Waite said.The first set was all Minnesota, as the Gophers quickly got out to a 6-0 lead and led by as many as 14 points at 23-9. Throughout the set, the Badgers committed 11 errors and had only eight kills. Making things even more difficult was the Gophers’ superb blocking, which tallied seven stuffs in the first set.Sophomore setter Janelle Gabrielsen believes the team’s poor serve-receive affected her passing ability, which in turn led to Minnesota blocks and Wisconsin unforced errors.“It made me set to a certain spot that the blockers knew, because I could only set to one option,” she said. “It’s kind of hard for hitters to go against two blockers with the double block, so I guess it did affect us.”The Badgers had a bit more energy in the second and third sets, scoring 21 and 22 points, respectively. However, they were never able to put a halt to the relentless Minnesota attack, which was led by a match-high 14 kills from junior Lauren Gibbemeyer. The blocks also kept coming from the Gophers, who ended with 16 for the game compared to the Badgers’ four.“[Gibbemeyer] is a great athlete,” UW junior Allison Wack said. “She’s always been the type of player who can take her team on her back. … She’s a gamer. She shows up all the time, and you have to find a way to stop her.”Also making things more difficult for the Badgers was the ineffectiveness of freshman Kirby Toon, who had been a strong force on offense until the losing streak. According to Waite, the knee injury Toon suffered last season is finally starting to take a toll on the young athlete’s ability to perform.“I think late in the season here, her knee is really starting to tire, so we want to be careful and cautious,” Waite said. “I think it’s affected her first step to the ball, and she knows that. She would love to be out there, but physically, it’s not time for her right now.”While Toon’s injury may be a factor in the Badgers’ slide from fifth place in the Big Ten, the Badgers’ poor performance has truly been a result of the entire team’s struggles. Against Minnesota, the Badgers’ first-set troubles were reason enough for Waite to abandon the 5-1 offensive scheme in favor of the 6-2, which was used last season.“We’re just trying to find a way for things to start clicking for them right now, for them to get into a rhythm and find some people who can swing and score, and Nellie is generally very good at that,” Waite said. “We gave her the opportunity today and she stepped up a number of times and had some good shots. We just need more people stepping up their games.”With only four games remaining in the regular season, the Badgers’ NCAA Tournament hopes have all but disappeared. However, despite the team’s struggles, Waite is confident in its ability, and he believes its recent results are not a reflection on the talent level of the team but rather its inability to consistently perform well against strong conference opponents.“We played like crud. Bottom line,” Waite said. “We have to play better, and that’s a team we can beat.”last_img

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