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Volleyball off to best start in decade

September 27, 2012

Freshman outside hitter Kaylee Jacobs spikes the ball
Freshman outside hitter Kaylee Jacobs spikes the ball over the net against the UW-La Crosse Eagles. (Alicia Carlson/Student Voice)

A deep roster, powered by its senior class, is off to the best start the UW-River Falls women’s volleyball team has had since 2003.

Coach Patti Ford said that the fast start does not surprise her because of the experience of her senior class.

“I did kind of expect it. We’ve been working toward it the past three years with these seniors; it’s been a work in progress.”

Two key members of the senior class have played the same position for years. WIAC Player of the Week, Erin Green has been a middle hitter for the last three seasons.

Courtney Preiner digs the ball
Courtney Preiner digs the ball and comes up with a key save against UW-La Crosse. (Alicia Carlson/Student Voice)

Mackenzie Suda has been a setter for the past four seasons. Ford said that having seniors with experience in these critical positions has also keyed the team’s fast start.

Green stated another reason for the 13-2 record that the Falcons have started with this season.

“We worked hard all summer and in preseason so we were expecting a really great start to this season.”

Ford said that her bench adds a lot to the team and that, while only 11 or 12 players see playing time, anyone on the team could help out.

“Any given night, any of the kids we have could come in and help us out.

They have a specific role and responsibility and they just really embrace that role. They bring a little energy to the court too,” the 21-year head coach said.

Only six teams from the WIAC make the conference tournament every year with the winner of the tournament earning the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

After all automatic conference bids have been earned; an NCAA tournament selection committee then chooses a number of at-large teams to fill out tournament.

Last year, the WIAC earned two at-large bids in addition to the conference’s automatic bid.

One of the factors that the selection committee looks at is a team’s strength of schedule. Ford said the Falcons have played a schedule that will help them come selection day.

“The teams we play in the MIAC and in tournaments, that strength of schedule will definitely help and put us in consideration.”

The Falcons have not advanced past the first round of the WIAC tournament for any year of these seniors’ careers.

In order to break that barrier, Ford said that the team needs to focus on playing well in the regular season so that it builds momentum.

“It takes the ability to play well up until then. If we are continually improving, and we’re playing our best volleyball at the end of the year, anything can happen. I firmly believe that.”

Green, a Fridley, Minn. native, said that she thinks the Falcons have the ability to make it far past the first round of the WIAC tournament.

“I think this team has every capability to get to the top of the WIAC and make a good run at the NCAA tournament,” Green said.

Before they can get to the WIAC tournament, the Falcons have three more tournaments to play in, as well as a number of conference games.