Wack leads defensive charge for experienced Badgers

first_imgNot all was lost when the University of Wisconsin volleyball squad ended its NCAA tournament run with a three-game loss to Washington in the Elite Eight.The Huskies, who went on to win the national title, gave the Badgers the chance to experience a different kind of defense than what they had previously employed, and the 2006 defensive players have been working hard during spring sessions to mimic that style in preparation for the next Big Ten season.”We changed our defense, doing more of what Washington does, it’s just being more ‘still on contact’ instead of moving before [the play],” libero Jocelyn Wack said. “You could just tell that Washington was a very composed, very mature team, and that’s always something you look up to.”What won’t change, luckily for Wisconsin, is the personnel running the backcourt under UW head coach Pete Waite. Wack, who surpassed the NCAA record for consecutive double-figure dig matches with her 64th straight such effort against Washington, rejoins fellow juniors Megan Mills and Amanda Berkley in the backcourt.Besides picking up a few tips from the champs, Wisconsin plans to utilize its backrow defense for its first full season, which accounts for one strong hitter — mostly sophomore Audra Jeffers, the Badgers’ Offensive Player of the Year in 2005 — to lurk in the backcourt, allowing for another attacking option coming out of a defensive transition.Jeffers has been pleased with the new system thus far, which was experimented with during UW’s recent home tournament, the Wisconsin Spring Classic, last Saturday.”If the pass is a little bit off, then the setter can give it to the back row, and we’ll still have a hitter back there,” Jeffers said. “It’s even good in transition in a play, just to throw it in the back because the[ir] blockers aren’t expecting it. So it’s been pretty effective.”Mills, who teams with Berkley off the bench during games to beef up the defense and give offensive players a rest, said that UW’s improvement over the course of two years has enabled the team to utilize the style more often.”When our freshman class came in, since we were so new, passing was a very important part that we needed to make sure that we got before we worried about anything else,” Mills said. “Now that we’re starting to get better passing, it’s easier to have that fourth option and get that dimension added in.”Speaking of a fourth option, the Badger backcourt could be seeing more of sophomore Faye McCormack. When asked about the return of the three junior defenders for UW, players and coach alike were quick and sure to mention McCormack as a strong candidate to leave a mark on the 2006 season.”She’s been playing really well in the spring,” Wack said. “She brings a lot of fire, a lot of energy that really helps us when it comes to clutch time. She’s doing a great job.””She had to learn some things coming into the fall as a freshman, just about the speed of the game,” Waite added. “She’s so quick at times, she needs to slow down a little bit and just be a little more calm on defense. I think she’s doing that much more this spring.”We’ve got four good defenders, and if we need them in there, we can go with anybody.”As team libero, Wack is the focal point of the defense, which has allowed her to create such a string of success in the digs department. But anyone who knows Wack is aware of her tendency to avoid the subject of the national record.To say the least, now that Wack is officially number one on the all-time list, it’s safe to assume that the pressure will be lessened this fall, and she can officially proceed with her goals of helping the team first and foremost above any individual accomplishment.”I think she never goes into a game thinking about that record,” Waite said. “Sometimes, the team and the staff wants to make sure she keeps going with it and so they want to help her as much as possible, but I know she doesn’t put any stock into getting the highest [record] ever, she just wants to contribute to the team.”Records aside, the Badgers know that in order to break the barrier that has stood between them and the Final Four during the past two years, they’ll have to not only uphold their reputation as a blocking juggernaut, but step up their backcourt defense to match up with the likes of Washington and other national powerhouses.Jeffers put it into perspective as good as any member of the UW squad possibly could.”Defense is going to be the key to our success as a team, so everyone’s just going to have to play really solid.”last_img read more

Gbinije contributes off bench in 1st game at former school Duke

first_img Published on February 23, 2014 at 5:31 pm Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 DURHAM, N.C. — The Cameron Crazies are notoriously harsh and on Saturday, Michael Gbinije learned that homecomings at Cameron Indoor Stadium can be brutal.From the moment he stepped on Coach K Court, Gbinije was showered with taunts from the unappreciative Crazies.“Gbi-ni-je! Still doesn’t play!” they chanted as he shot around during warm-ups.Through the first half, though, he played plenty — 12 minutes to be exact — and was one of the best players on the floor. No. 1 Syracuse lost to No. 5 Duke 66-60, but Gbinije scored eight points in the opening frame.He didn’t wait long to draw the ire of the 9,314-person crowd for his actions on the court, either. Just 6:28 into the game, Gbinije intercepted Jabari Parker’s pass and took it the other way for what should have been an easy layup. Andre Dawkins grabbed his jersey and was whistled for an intentional foul.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Cameron Crazies were livid. Gbinije calmly sunk both free throws and the Orange kept the ball.Two minutes later, Tyler Ennis grabbed a steal and hit Gbinije for a trailing 3 in transition.“I thought Mike did a great job coming in,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said.Boeheim plays with a small rotation, so the contributions of Gbinije and backup center Baye Moussa Keita were critical.“Both guys played tremendous,” he said.He added another 3 from the corner late in the first half, but saw his role shrink in the second frame. That reopened the door for derisive cheers from the Cameron crowd.When he inbounded the ball across from Syracuse’s bench and in front of a horde of Duke students, Gbinije was met with angry heckling. When he fouled Amile Jefferson on nearly the same spot on the court, the Blue Devil faithful chanted, “We don’t miss you!”Gbinije left the locker room before media was able to enter, but in a familiar gym he delivered one of the most admirable performances of his college career.“Mike coming in really is a good thing for us moving forward,” Boeheim said. “It’s tough to come back down here and play. He played his best game of the year.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more