Wisconsin volleyball welcomes 8 new athletes

first_imgEight new players on the volleyball team will play a big role for the Badgers, who have one of the youngest teams in the Big Ten conference.[/media-credit]Coming off one of its most disappointing seasons in recent memory, the Wisconsin volleyball team may be facing an even more challenging year in 2009.Last fall, with nine returning players on the roster, experience defined the Badgers, but did not provide them with enough to make the NCAA Tournament, let alone compete in the Big Ten.One year later, these Badgers look quite a bit different, and it’s not just Brittney Dolgner’s new haircut.Five freshmen, two transfers and one walk-on sum up an eventful offseason for the volleyball team, which lost its core of upperclassmen from last year. The eight newcomers make up half of the team, but while they might lack experience, Dolgner believes the team’s mix of new arrivals and upperclassmen leadership will make for an exciting season.“It’s really nice because they all bring something different to the table,” said Dolgner, a senior and the team’s captain. “All the players that came in were ready to get started and they improved so quickly.”Nevertheless, while all the new players bring certain skill sets to the team, several admitted that adjusting to the college game will be a challenge in itself. Junior Jessa Benson, who joined the team last spring, has taken it upon herself to help the freshmen adapt to college volleyball and life as a student.“I think it’s a challenge because the freshmen have so many challenges other than volleyball,” Benson said. “But I think the upperclassmen have really taken a leadership role and everyone’s doing an awesome job to help the freshmen adjust.”Even with the parade of newcomers, the Badgers are still receiving some respect from the media. Even after their disappointing 2008 season when the Badgers went 17-15, the media picked Wisconsin to finish fifth in the Big Ten and were also given votes to be among the nation’s top 25 teams.“I think people are seeing our potential,” Benson said. “They aren’t just looking at our upperclassmen like Brittney and Caity (DuPont), but they’re looking at the potential of the new players. There’s a sense of respect for our program because of our history.”Head coach Pete Waite echoed Benson’s notion, saying the team’s history over the past several years has shaped its reputation. But he also noted while the team has a different look from years past, it won’t hinder its ability to perform well during the season.“It happens in every program, in any sport,” Waite said. “Teams go in swings of younger and older groups and, a lot of the time, the younger teams are the ones that do well because they just don’t know any better. They go out, play hard and bring a lot of energy to the court, and sometimes that’s hard to find.”But just as Waite foresees a successful year from his core of young players, this season will also challenge the coach, as he has never dealt with such a team dynamic before.“In my 20 years of coaching, I don’t think I’ve ever had a team that had eight new members,” he said. “It’s taken some adjustment, but they’ve really done a nice job listening and in our scrimmages.“We’ve had to change some things up in practice a little bit,” he continued. “You know we always have girls who need to learn new drills, but having eight of them is a bit more challenging.”To ease that challenge a bit, the newly-named captains –Dolgner and senior Caity DuPont — are looking to be more vocal leaders and help their new team members on and off the court. However, Waite believes while Dolgner and DuPont are essential to the team’s success, Benson has made an immediate impact both on the returning players and incoming freshmen.“We were lucky to get Jessa in the spring, and she helps our newcomers because she played at a different school,” Waite said. “She’s been the glue that’s connected the two groups — the upperclassmen and the freshmen — and her positive attitude and energy have just been a huge help on and off the court.”After hosting the InnTower Invitational at the Field House this past weekend, the squad is focused on taking care of business in the Oregon State Invitational, which starts Sept. 5. For Dolgner and the rest of the Badgers, meeting the new players has been a team-building experience, but she knows the only way for them to improve further is to play against other opponents.“It’s really excited to play against someone who’s not on your team,” Dolgner said. “They [the freshmen] are going to be a little nervous at first, but they’ll adjust after the first few points.”last_img read more