Volleyball: Warhawks look ahead to NCAA Tourney

 

By Justin Woodard

Despite falling short of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament title over the weekend, the Warhawk volleyball team looks to succeed in the NCAA tournament after receiving their 21st consecutive bid.

UW-Eau Claire ended the Warhawks’ hopes of a conference tournament title, defeating them on Friday, 3-1.  The Warhawks came back strong on Saturday in the third place game, defeatingUW-Oshkosh in a three-game sweep.

As the No. 2 seed in the WIAC tournament, UW-Whitewater received a first round bye, and UW-Eau Claire defeated UW-Stout to advance to the second round.  The Warhawks may have wished they played an extra warm-up game after falling short to UW-Eau Claire.

UW-Whitewater put that loss behind them and refocused on Saturday, defeating UW-Oshkosh to earn third place.

The first set remained close until the Warhawks went on a 9-2 run at the end, led by freshman Brittney Langley’s three kills.  Junior Kristen Ruchti sealed the first set, earning the final kill and giving the Warhawks a 25-19 win.

Set two was similar, as the Warhawks put together an impressive 7-1 run at the end to take a 25-19 win.

In the third and final set, the Warhawks went on an 11-1 run in the middle of the set to complete a 25-20 victory and the 3-0 sweep.  Even though the WIAC tournament didn’t go as planned for theWarhawks, they do not want to hang their heads entering the NCAA tournament.

“I feel we have competed against some of the top teams in the nation and have played really well against them,” Langley said. “Once we are in the tournament I feel we will play more consistent Warhawk volleyball with full expectations to win it all.”

Ruchti also believes her team can compete with anybody, but she insists they cannot beat themselves.

Honestly, our biggest weakness is that we beat ourselves.  It doesn’t matter who we put on the floor at anytime, it’s Whitewater vs. Whitewater,” Ruchti said. “I truly believe we have the potential to beat any team out there. We just can’t beat ourselves.”

Junior Leanna Lillge led all players with 13 kills in the third place match and added three blocks.

Lillge knows her team is nearly unbeatable when things are clicking on the floor and everyone is doing their job.

“When we are passing and hitting good, we are unstoppable and our confidence is extremely high,” Lillge said. “We just can’t dwell on the past plays if something doesn’t go right.  To get out of bad situations we need to maintain a short term memory.”

The Warhawks begin NCAA tournament play on Friday in Elmhurst, Ill. against Thomas More College.  If they win on Friday, they play the winner of Webster and Elmhurst on Saturday.

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