Warhawk volleyball team is right where it belongs
The Warhawks have advanced to the Elite Eight for the sixth time in eight years, thanks to a thrilling five-game win over the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) in the regional final at St. Paul.
Whitewater (34-4) opens the single-elimination tournament at 1 p.m. Thursday against the University of Puget Sound (Wash.). The eight-team tournament is at the Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill.
Whitewater won national titles in 2002 and 2005, and finished second in 2000, 2001 and tied for third last year. Coach Stacy Boudreau believes the Warhawks are poised to make anther run.
“You still have to maintain your focus on one game at a time, but we’re definitely excited about going down there with a chance to win another national title,” Boudreau said. “That was our No. 1 goal coming into the season and it hasn’t changed.
“The competition is obviously very tough. Right now, all we’re worried about is Puget Sound.”
The Loggers are 20-8 and finished second in the Northwest Conference.
“From watching them on tape and talking to a few coaches who have played them, it’s apparent that they’re a strong middle attack team,” Boudreau said. “They play at a pretty fast pace and are an aggressive serving team.
“One of my biggest concerns is that they have a couple of kids that have a jump float serve that can be difficult to return. We’re working on that in practice to try to prepare for it.”
Whitewater presents plenty of match-up problems as well. The Warhawks are riding a 15-match winning streak and are the most experienced team at the Elite Eight. The starting six have been on a national championship and a third-place team the last two years.
Senior Carley Polk leads the Warhawks with 376 kills, with Abbey Schultz and Kelly Sorenson right behind with 343 and 340, respectively. Williams Bay High graduate and senior Becca Nelson has 207 kills despite battling the effects of off-season shoulder surgery.
Kate Lazotte is the catalyst behind the Warhawk offense. The setter has 1,389 assists, while another Williams Bay graduate, Kristina Conlin, leads the team with 58 service aces.
“The key for us against Puget Sound will be to slow the game down and force the ball to the outside,” Boudreau said. “We have to be able to serve aggressively and make sure that defensively we do a good job of covering the entire court.”
With Bloomington less than three hours away, Boudreau is hoping for a large contingent of Warhawk fans to make the trip.
A fan bus is already in the works, and the UW-Whitewater pep band is also expected to attend.
“Our pep band has been at every home match, and I know they’re excited about going down,” Boudreau said.
“It’s a chance to see the best of the best in Division III volleyball, and I hope a lot of our fans come down.”
Considering the Warhawks’ track record at the tournament, making the 163-mile trip makes a lot of sense.
At Illinois Wesleyan,
Quarterfinal matches Thursday
1 p.m.—UW-Whitewater (34-4) vs. Puget Sound, Wash. (20-8)
3:30 p.m.—Amherst, Mass. (30-4) vs. Juniata, Pa. (36-4)
6 p.m.—Washington University, Mo. (30-5) vs. Emory, Ga. (33-6)
8:30 p.m.—Wittenberg, Ohio (37-0) vs. Stevens Institute, N.J. (36-4)
Semifinal Matches Friday
(4:30, 7 p.m.)
UW-Whitewater/Puget Sound winner vs. Amherst/Juniata winner
Washington University/Emory winner vs. Wittenberg/Stevens Institute winner
Championship Match Saturday
7 p.m.—Semifinal winners