first_imgWisconsinA three-game road trip to Colorado resulted in three wins for the Wisconsin volleyball team this past weekend, and now the Badgers are coming home undefeated to begin the season.The No. 4 Badgers (5-0) will host the Hotel Red Invitational Tournament beginning Friday and continuing into Saturday. The other three teams traveling to Madison to participate in the tournament are Missouri State, Miami (Florida) and Ball State.Wisconsin’s most recent road trip has pointed them in the right direction. UW faced off against Northern Colorado in the first game of the University of Northern Colorado/Colorado State Classic. The Badgers downed the Bears in the tournament opener in four sets and Florida A&M suffered the same fate the following afternoon.The biggest test for the Badgers was ahead of them Saturday night, when they had to take on No. 13 Colorado State. It was UW’s first matchup of the season against a ranked opponent. The Badgers surgically dismissed the Rams in three straight sets (25-21, 25-23, 25-20) to pick up their third win of the weekend.“It was a really good team, it’s a team that’s got a lot of tradition, that plays the game really and that’s got a lot of experience,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “I thought we executed when the match was on the line. When the sets were on the line I thought we executed on a very high level.”Junior Libero Taylor Morey set the UW three set match record for digs with 26, surpassing now-graduated Annmarie Hickey’s previous record of 25. Over the weekend, Morey averaged 6.27 digs per set and tallied 20 plus digs in all three matches.Those numbers were enough for her to earn her second-straight Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. Morey’s 5.88 digs per set currently leads the Big Ten. Morey became the first Badger to win back-to-back Player of the Week honors.The individual accolades did not stop there for the Badgers. Senior right-side hitter Courtney Thomas’ performance from last weekend earned her Big Ten Player of the Week honors. She is the first Wisconsin player to win that award since Allison Wack did so in October 2010.Thomas is just 20 kills shy of reaching 1,000. When she does reach that mark, she will be the 15th Badger to reach that milestone.Against Colorado State, Thomas shared a team high of 12 kills with freshman Kelli Bates. Bates had 16 kills against Northern Colorado and averaged 3.09 kills per set on the weekend. Thomas also hit .397.“Going into a gym with 7,000 people and winning is definitely a confidence booster,” Thomas said.Thomas says that the thought of her playing her final home opener does not deviate from the usual game plan.“I’m just here to win,” Thomas said. “I’m not really focusing on this being my last year.”Sophomore setter Lauren Carlini was named the Big Ten Setter of the Week. It was her first time receiving the award. She averaged 11.55 assists, 3.27 digs and .91 blocks per set on the weekend.Regarding the individual awards of his players, Sheffield was more impressed by the team’s week-to-week improvement so far this season.“[Receiving awards] means you had a pretty good weekend; they don’t give out awards to losers,” Sheffield said. “More importantly, all three of them were better in week two than they were in week one.”Wisconsin refused to let CSU’s crowd break their focus. About 7,000 fans attended the match and Sheffield estimated about 2,000 of them were students. Sheffield and his players hope Badger fans pack the UW Field House for the home opener and bring a similar intensity.“We are so excited about being back here,” Sheffield said. “We love playing at the Field House, so we’re hoping that the community, and certainly the students, get behind our team, their team, and show the same energy.”Wisconsin currently leads the nation with 16.06 kills per set and ranks eighth nationally with 13.94 assists per set. Despite the team firing on all cylinders, the thought of finally playing in front of their own fans is very welcoming.“We’re a little homesick with it,” Carlini said. “We just want to show our fans and be supported by them. I think it’s just so cool that [during the opening ceremony] all of our fans are united and we’re all in one place at one time and everyone’s so supportive and all the kids are lined up giving up high five.”The Badgers will open the weekend against Miami (Florida) Friday evening at 7:30 p.m., when the 2013 NCAA runner-up banner will be hung from the rafters prior to first serve. UW students also receive free admission to the game as well as complementary pizza and t-shirts based on a first come, first serve basis.They will round out the HotelRed Invitational Saturday with a noon match against Missouri State and a 7:30 p.m. finale against Ball State.MiamiThe Hurricanes have started the 2014 campaign 4-2, participating in two tournaments to kickoff their season.Miami hosted a trio of games in the Hurricane Invitational to begin the season. The Hurricanes won the opener against Seton Hall in a 3-0 sweep, and then swept the next two matches against Florida A&M and Florida Gulf Coast University.The ‘Canes then traveled to Texas to compete in the Texas Christian University Invitational. Despite winning the first nine sets of the season, Miami dropped its match against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock 3-1. They then lost a hard-fought contest 3-2 against host TCU. The Hurricanes bounced back against Prairie View A&M by sweeping them 3-0 to pull their record on the season to 4-2.The Hurricanes are led by senior captains Savannah Leaf and Evani Sims. Both players were named to the 2014 All-ACC Preseason Team following impressive 2013 seasons that placed both of them on the All-ACC team at the conclusion of the season.Sims leads the team in blocks per set with 1.29 while Leaf averages a team-high 4.20 kills per set. They both led Miami in those respective categories last season as well.Missouri StateThe Bears enter the HotelRED Invitational .500 (4-4). They opened their season by falling to New Mexico State in three sets at the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City. In their next match, the Bears lost a heartbreaker to Utah in a match that needed the maximum five sets to decide a winner. Missouri State finally broke into the win column in the final game of the tournament, defeating Montana State in a three set sweep.The win over Montana State began a stretch in which Missouri State won four of five games. The Bears beat Oral Roberts 3-1 to start the University Plaza/Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational in Springfield, Missouri. After getting swept in their next match against Western Kentucky, they finished the tournament with two wins against the University of the Incarnate Word and UW-Milwaukee. They did not lose a set in either match.After six straight set wins, the Bears went on the road to face Kansas State. Although they dropped the match in five sets, freshman Lily Johnson had 23 kills and became the fastest Bear to reach 100 kills in her career.Johnson leads the team with 3.59 kills per set. Sophomore middle blocker Simone House was named the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday and will be a player to watch on the defensive side of the court for the Bears.Ball StateIt will be a scene of familiar faces for Sheffield and the Badgers when the Cardinals come to town for the weekend.UW head coach Kelly Sheffield graduated from Ball State in 2001 and got his first job in coaching from Ball State head coach Steve Shondell at the Burris Laboratory School in Muncie, Indiana. Coincidentally, Taylor Morey is a native of Muncie and Shondell coached her throughout high school.Ball State enters the Invitational with a .500 record at 3-3. They hosted the Ball State Active Ankle Challenge to begin the season, where they went 2-1. They swept Western Illinois and Northern Colorado, but lost to Eastern Illinois in four sets.They then ventured to Laramie, Wyoming to participate in the UniWyo Cowgirl Classic. The Cardinals beat Montana in the opener in four sets, but lost their final two matches against Wyoming (3-1) and Southern Alabama (3-0).On the offensive side of things for Ball State is redshirt junior Hayley Benson, who leads the team with 2.86 kills and 1.18 blocks per set. She also leads the Cardinals in hitting percentage at .374. Another redshirt junior, Kelly Hopkins, adds 2.17 kills per set. Alex Fuelling is a key player on both sides of the ball, averaging 2.14 kills per set and a team-leading 3.00 digs per set.last_img