Kelly Sheffield is convinced there’s nothing wrong with his University of Wisconsin volleyball team that can’t be cured by a few good days of practice.
Fortuitously, those few days came along at just the right time as the No. 8 Badgers try to put the wheels back on after spinning out of control in a disappointing loss to unranked Iowa on Saturday night.
Taking advantage of their first week of the conference season without a Wednesday match, the Badgers (11-3, 4-2 Big Ten) have spent the time working to clear up the issues that popped up against the Hawkeyes in the five-set loss.
“It’ll be good to have a full week of practice,” Sheffield said at the start of the week. “That’s something we haven’t had the last several weeks.”
There has been no shortage of issues to address, as Sheffield was displeased with every phase of the Badgers’ game. Reviewing the game film only confirmed the problems he saw in real time.
“There just wasn’t an element of our game I thought we were very good at,” he said. “I thought our ball control wasn’t great. Our defense was really, really poor and the film confirmed that, especially against the left side attack. We weren’t very disciplined and our effort wasn’t great.
“Those are things we’ve got to get better at. Were there more bright spots after watching the film? No. It wasn’t any worse than what I saw. It confirmed what we were seeing there sitting on the bench. Quite a bit of that had to do with our opponent. Iowa was really good and their left sides took a lot of swings and put a lot of pressure on us. We weren’t good at being able to slow that down, we weren’t very good at consistently where we needed to be. There just wasn’t a lot of discipline in that match.”
One consistent thread in the Badgers’ three losses was their inability to shut down the opponent’s left side hitters, whether it was Baylor’s Yossiana Pressley (32 kills), Minnesota’s Alexis Hart (14 kills) or Iowa’s Cali Hoye (30 kills) and Taylor Louis (24 kills).
While the problem has been repetitious, the cause of it has been varied, Sheffield said.
“It’s not one thing,” he said. “It’s inconsistency is what it is. I think it’s inconsistency with our block, inconsistency with our defensive positioning, with our effort, with our figure-it-out ability.
“Usually when you have those things, it’s people that are probably stressed and are trying to do too much rather than reading the situation and handling my area of the court. I think we have to settle down in some situations and trust that teammates are going to do their own job.”
Junior libero Tiffany Clark recognizes the problems that have flared up, but is confident that the team will figure things out and bounce back this weekend against Northwestern (10-8, 0-6) on Friday and No. 7 Illinois (15-2, 4-2) on Saturday. It was, after all, just last Wednesday that the Badgers beat the Illini on their home court.
“We have a lot of veterans on this team and we’re experienced enough to know that every Big Ten season has a bunch of ups and downs,” Clark said. “I would rather have a bunch of ups at the end of the season when it gets really important toward playoff time than a bunch of ups early in the season.
“You don’t really lose, you learn here. There’s no use in just brooding and getting angry over it. You just have to learn from it. We have a whole week of practice to work on the things they exposed and the things we exposed ourselves on.”
Clark said that watching film of the Iowa game, she barely recognized the UW team as the same one that has wins over ranked teams like Texas, Marquette, Purdue and Illinois on its resume.
“I’m seeing a team that’s just frantic,” she said. “When we’re steady, we’re awesome. No one can stop us.”