UW hosts Iowa in home opener

first_imgCaity DuPont, who tallied nine kills in UW\’s last match, spikes the ball against Duke on August 28.[/media-credit]After sweeping UW-Green Bay in its final nonconference game, the Wisconsin volleyball team will host the Iowa Hawkeyes tonight at the Field House in its first Big Ten game of the year.The Badgers (5-4) beat the Green Bay Phoenix in straight sets last week to win consecutive matches for the first time this season. In the game, captains Brittney Dolgner and Caity DuPont each tallied nine kills to lead the Badgers, and as a team, Wisconsin had 46 kills compared to Green Bay’s 29.“It was great to get two wins in a row,” DuPont said. “All season we’ve kinda been going up down, up down, so it was really great to get the second win in the row. … Going into to Big Ten play, it’s just awesome to go in with a win.”In the win, in addition to the strong offensive effort, the Badgers also received a solid performance from freshman outside hitter Kirby Toon, who had a career-best four blocks. Dolgner, DuPont and Elle Ohlander also chipped in with one block apiece.“For [Kirby] coming in as a freshman especially moving from a left side hitter to a right side hitter, learning the blocking, that’s really impressive because not many players can do that right away,” head coach Pete Waite said. “It’s a tough place to block because you’re usually up against the opponent’s best hitter. She’s very stable up there; we feel really good about having her out there.”After playing their last six games on the road, the Badgers finally return to the Field House for the first time since Aug. 30 when they lost to Ohio in four games. Now, Wisconsin players are excited for the opportunity to show the home crowd how much they have improved over the past several weeks.Last year, the Badgers split their two matches with the Hawkeyes, losing to Iowa for the first time in 26 consecutive matches. While that streak is now over, the team is excited to begin its season at home.“I think like I’ve been saying this is our first match and everyone wants to get out there and start strong, so I think the intensity level throughout the whole game should be really high,” Toon said. “And you know, kicking it off and being here at home with a bunch of fans, hopefully we’ll get a lot of students out here and it should be a lot of fun.”Against Iowa, the Badgers will have to contend with the top defensive team in the Big Ten, as the Hawkeyes average 17.36 digs per set. Nevertheless, according to DuPont, while the Hawkeyes might pose a threat to Wisconsin’s offense attack, the Badgers aren’t concerned over their opponent’s play, but rather with their own.“I think we just need to focus on our side of the net,” DuPont said. “If we focus too much on the other team then we do little things wrong that we should be taking care of. So I think it’s more of focusing on us and playing the best that we can.”Also challenging the Badger defense will be senior outside hitter Megan Schipper, who leads Iowa in kills. Waite knows while his squad must prioritize its own side of the net, defending Schipper will be a key component in beating the Hawkeyes.“Megan Schipper is their top player [and] top hitter. She pretty much has twice as many swings as anybody else. We know she’s going to get a lot of balls,” Waite said. “Overall they’ve got some new players on the court we haven’t seen yet, so it’s going to be nice to see how they’ve matured over the preseason.”Aside from Schipper’s strong play, the Hawkeyes had a fairly solid preseason, going 8-4. While the record might not show the team’s true strength, its schedule is impressive, having played nine road games, including one against No. 9 Iowa State.“They’ve got some great attackers and they’re going to come at us with a lot of fire,” DuPont said. “They’re ready to win too — they’ve had a great preseason too. We’ve got to come out with all we got tomorrow.”For the volleyball team, while last year’s record may be looked upon as a disappointment, the new season, particularly in the Big Ten, means a clean slate for the program. While Toon didn’t experience the letdown of last year, she knows starting off this conference season with a home win would be an ideal way to start.“I think everyone is just ready to kick off the season and start the Big Ten season,” Toon said. “Coming off a loss with Iowa last year, all the returners are ready to get out there and kick some butt.”last_img

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