Volleyball sweeps Stout in round one

Natalie Dillon

The UW Oshkosh women’s volleyball team (28-6 overall, 5-2 conference) defeated UW-Stout in the first round of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament. They claimed a share of the conference title by beating the Blue Devils and UW-River Falls.

UWO finished in a three-way tie with UW-La Crosse and UW-Whitewater and clinched the third seed in the tournament after tiebreakers.

The Titans are now back-to-back conference champions and have secured their 13th title in school history.

Head coach Brian Schaefer said it’s odd to have three conference champions because usually the team that wins will be undefeated or have only one loss.

“We should be sending Christmas cards to some of the other teams in the conference because Platteville beating Whitewater was a major upset, and Stout beat Eau-Claire,” Schaefer said. “Anybody can beat anybody on a given day and that’s something our conference is known for.”

Freshman Shannon Herman said the team looked to take their game a step further after defeating Stout on Saturday.

“We looked at the positives of the game and enhanced them,” Herman said. “We watched a lot of film. We knew we could beat them because we beat them already.”

The beginning of the first set in the Conference Tournament proved to be competitive as the two teams tied the set six times; however, after 10 all, UWO pulled away. The Blue Devils were plagued with two double hits late in the set to give the Titans leads at 21-15 and 23-16. Two kills from senior Nerissa Vogt and freshman Samantha Jaeke closed out the first set 25-17.

In the second set, Oshkosh built a quick 6-1 lead. The Titans scored the first three points with kills from sophomore Tina Elstner and Jaeke and a block from Vogt.

After a five point run, the Titan lead swelled to 10 points. During the rally, Elstner pounded out two kills and put up a combination block with Vogt. Sophomore Carly Lemke and senior Lexi Thiel also chipped in kills.

Despite a small run of their own, Stout trailed once again by a margin of 10 after a service ace from Jaeke. UWO captured the second set 25-14.

Ahead two sets, the Titans cruised through the third set. The final point difference of the set was 11, but UWO held a consistent 10 point lead towards the end of the set.

Schaefer said the girls came out more confident this time around. Instead of winning in four sets, the Titans swept the Blue Devils in only three sets.

“We also played all aspects of the game really well,” Schaefer said. “Our serving lead to our blocking. Offensively, we were passing really well. They couldn’t focus on one person who was getting all of the kills. When we spread out our offense like that we will be a hard team to beat.”

Four Titans put up significant kills. Elstner led the team with 10 kills, Jaeke followed with eight and Vogt and Lemke both added seven.

Freshman Rachel Gardner led the team with 13 digs, teammate Elstner provided nine, senior Laura Trochinski added eight and sophomore Brianna Venturini totaled seven. Thiel, who is ranked 45th nationally for assists per set, recorded 38 assists.

In the second match of the weekend against UW-Stout, 23rd-ranked Oshkosh won in four sets to become a WIAC tri champion with 14th-ranked UW-Whitewater and 10th-ranked UW-La Crosse. After falling in the first set 22-25, UWO took the next three sets 25-20, 25-20 and 25-15.

Jaeke said the team felt some pressure to perform, but it didn’t affect how well they played.

“Every game there is pressure, but it was more excitement,” Jaeke said. “We get to play to share conference. It was excitement and giddiness.”

The Titans trailed until claiming their first lead at 16-15. The lead came off of a seven point run aided by two kills a piece from Lemke and Herman. Oshkosh’s lead was short lived as the Blue Devils went back up 22-21, then closed out the first set scoring the last three of four points.

Some miscommunication lead to an 11-6 deficit early in the second match; however, the Titans pulled back to tie the set at 11 with four kills and a Blue Devil error.

UWO would fall again 18-17 before going on a five point run to lead 22-18. During the rally, Elstner pounded out two kills and Gardner came up with a service ace. The set point was a kill from Jaeke.

After holding an 8-7 lead, Oshkosh scored the next nine of 10 points to go up 17-8. Elstner and Vogt contributed two kills a piece to the run. Even though Stout fought to bring the set within four at 24-20, Jaeke ended the set with a kill yet again.

In the fourth and final set, the Titans were up 24-13 after a block from Thiel and Vogt, Stout fought off two match points before falling 25-15 with a block from Elstner.

Lemke totaled 18 kills, a new career high while hitting .500 with five blocks. Vogt obtained her third career double-double with 10 kills and 11 blocks while Thiel reached her 33rd career double-double with 50 assists and 13 digs.

Gardner led the team in digs with 19, Venturini added 12 more digs and Elstner pitched in 15 digs. Elstner also recorded eight kills and four blocks. Jaeke put up 15 kills, seven digs, five blocks and four assists. Teammate Herman also chipped in seven kills.

Schaefer mentioned a lot of players who played a good game including Lemke, Elstner and Herman. He said when looking at hitters’ stats and seeing good numbers, some of it comes from the setters such as Thiel.

“Our fifth hitter had 27 attempts and our top hitter had 35 or 38,” Schaefer said. “If you have that much distribution, it’s hard as the other team to know who you are going to. We don’t have to rely on one hitter getting 25 kills. If each of them can get 10 or 12 that’s a positive thing and a lot of times you win that way.”

On Friday the Titans took down UW-River Falls in three sets: 25-15, 25-14 and 25-22.

Elstner led the team with six aces and 14 digs. She also put up nine kills and three blocks. Vogt led the team with five blocks and contributed four additional kills. Thiel recorded 30 assists, Gardner added 10 digs and Lemke totaled six kills in the match.

The Titans advance to the semifinals Thursday at UW-La Crosse. Oshkosh fell to La Crosse on the road early in the season and Herman said the team has to come out and play their best game.

“There is nothing to lose,” Herman said. “If we lose our season is done. We just have to play balls out just like we did tonight with Stout.”