Shelby Howe, Sports Editor

The UW Oshkosh women’s volleyball team kicked off its conference season on Wednesday, Sept. 19 with a loss to UW-La Crosse. The Titans were defeated by the Eagles in three sets, 25-23, 25-20, 25-15.

Katie Hodges led the team with ten digs, followed by Renee Rush and Rebecca Doughty, both with eight. Doughty also contributed to 15 assists. Renee Rush and Taylor Allen both had seven kills, while Allen contributed with four blocks.

The first match was tied up more than ten times and was ended by a block from La Crosse’s Kathryn Maas and Rhiana Pochman. The Titans led over the Eagles in both the second and third matches, but eventually lost the lead due to strong kills from the Eagles.

UWO senior Carly Lemke said athletes might be used to one position over another, and many girls have had to step up in order to fill spots on the court, which may have contributed to the loss.

“As the season progresses I hope that we see growth in our team,” Lemke said. “We have some players out that I hope will be back at full strength soon and the players that have had to step up in their absence will remain stronger players for our team.”

Rush said she is confident that the team will only continue to grow stronger and overcome adversity involving injuries.

“Within the first two weeks of the season we had two people come down with injuries and two people quit all within the same position,” Rush said. “It was difficult to be so strong and well-versed in this position to having people play a position that they are not as used to. I give major props to how talented and well-versed our team is to perform anywhere on the court. ”

Head coach Jon Ellman said the team has room to grow in certain positions, but hopes the hard work will pay off.

“We have tremendous potential in the middle and opposite positions,” Ellman said. “It takes time to develop great setter/hitter connections but as the season progresses we will surely see the benefits of our hard work in those areas. Being present is a learned skill. One that we will continue to spend time cultivating. ”

Ellman said he knows the team has strengths that are emphasized in practice and games that deserve to be recognized.

“We have a high-character, talented, strong group of student-athletes who are talented in a variety of areas,” Ellman said. “We believe that you need to work on areas of deficiency but also that our return on investment when working on our areas of strength is greater. We will continue to identify our areas of strengths and work to maximize gains in performance.”

Despite the setbacks, the volleyball team has a positive attitude toward the rest of the season.

“I think we have grown from [setbacks] and know how to deal with them to change the outcome for this season and hopefully come out with a better outcome team- and record-wise,” Rush said. “I am excited for the future as the season progresses as injuries subside and we become more comfortable in positions. We have the talent; it’s just time to execute.”

Looking ahead, UWO volleyball will travel to Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois this weekend for three games against Ripon College, Carthage College and Aurora University. Conference play continues on Wednesday, Sept. 26 when the Titans host UW-Whitewater at 7 p.m. in Kolf Sports Center.