By: Jake Krier, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (blugolds.com) - Following University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's 2015 trip to the NCAA tournament where the Blugolds advanced to the second round, the volleyball team has similar goals for the 2016 campaign. Last year's squad earned UW-Eau Claire's first NCAA tournament win since 2012, finishing with an overall record of 27-10 on the season.
Among the five seniors who graduated last year, the Blugolds will need to replace setter Jenna Smits (1st Team All-Conference) and middle hitter Kelly Riesgraf (All-Conference Honorable Mention). Returning players in Katrina Raskie (Sr.-Weston, WI/D.C. Everest) and Talia Jaskulske (Jr.-Maplewood, MN/North St. Paul) look to lead the way.
Raskie, an outside hitter and three-time starter, led the team in kills last year and was named to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) All-Conference First Team. Jaskulske, the team's libero, led the squad in digs, earning All-WIAC Defensive Team honors. Additional returning upperclassmen include outside hitters Keagan Kinsella (Sr.-Chanhassen, MN) and Emily Miller (Jr.-Prior Lake, MN), middle hitter Mackenzee Pierog (Jr.-Eau Claire, WI/North), and defensive specialist Kasey Schumacher (Jr.-Channahon, IL/Minooka Community).
The Blugolds begin play on Friday, September 2, when they travel to the University of Chicago, facing Calvin, Rockford, Chicago, and Dominican (IL) at the weekend's tournament.
"We have a gauntlet schedule once again," said head coach Kim Wudi. "We try to schedule as many ranked and/or NCAA-qualifying teams as possible."
Other highlights on the schedule include hosting two tournaments, the Nike/Eastbay Fall Classic on September 16 and 17 and the Sandy Schumacher Memorial Tournament on October 14 and 15, as well as playing in a tournament at Washington University in St. Louis. The first conference match of the season takes place on Wednesday, September 21, when the Blugolds host UW-La Crosse in the McPhee Center.
Wudi added, "I would say the biggest difference is going to be the overall mental and emotional maturity of our team, with the wild card being how quickly our underclassmen are able to grow into those leadership roles vacated by last year's seniors."
Follow the action for all sports this season on Blugold Game Day.