UWL women’s volleyball competes at home invitational


Gianna Fussell

Photo Taken by Gianna Fussell

On September 16 and 17, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse women’s volleyball team hosted their UWL invitational in Mitchell Hall Gymnasium.  UWL invited Ripon College, UW-River Falls, Bethany Lutheran College (Minnesota), Simpson College (Iowa), Edgewood College, and Hamline University (Minnesota) to compete.

In UWL’s first game, they won all three sets, but not without a competitive third set played by Ripon College. In the first set, UWL won 25-19 and they followed their lead in the second set winning 25-20. However, in their third set against Ripon, Ripon was ahead 15-9. UWL came back in the third set, tying the score to 17-17, and eventually winning the set 25-20.  Head Coach Amber Needham is in her sixth-year coaching volleyball for UWL but previously coached in New York and for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. After the win against Ripon, she said, “I think for us we are finally kicking on all cylinders and doing the things we have been talking about and so for us, it goes back to trusting the process, we talk about that all the time, and being ready, and it is just starting to hit which is what I am really enjoying.”

UWL went on to win their second game against Simpson College in a four-set match. In their third game, UWL defeated Bethany Lutheran College in a three-set match. UWL’s last and final game allowed the women’s team to be undefeated for five games in a row when they beat Hamline University in another three-set match.

As all of the UWL’s sports have seen in the last few years, COVID-19 changed how programs were run and executed. Needham said, “we are doing a better job of getting back to the real things that are important, which are mental health, wellness, and student-athlete volleyball skills. The things that are really valuable to the part about competing, which is nice.” Madison Weisensel, a senior on the UWL’s women’s volleyball team, agrees with Needham. Weisensel said, “being able to come back and have this environment again, have the fans come, we used to have a limited number, like last season, and definitely during the COVID-19 season, we did not even have one, and so coming in and having an environment again where we can everybody cheering us on is so nice.” UWL volleyball had a large crowd attending the games in Mitchell Hall over the weekend, and Weisensel had nine kills and two blocks in the game against Ripon College.

As far as team chemistry goes for the UWL volleyball team, there is no shortage of wonderful players. Needham said, “I am really fortunate to have an incredible group of women. The level of respect and the entertainment and the personalities, and the creativity and all of the silly things that they do, it is just a really fun group to be a part of and I do not know that every coach gets to say that every year. I personally am just really embracing the experience with them and just meeting them where they are and having a really cool opportunity to learn and grow together.” As Weisensel competes in her last season, she said, “ I am looking forward to a lot of things, especially enjoying every moment and soaking it up.”

Last month, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) announced that the UWL women’s volleyball team is projected to place fifth at this year’s conference championships. The head coaches of the WIAC volleyball league and sports information directors voted on these placements in a preseason poll. Teams qualify for the WIAC Tournament (presented by Culver’s) by placing within the top-six teams in the conference. The winner of the tournament, which will take place on November 1, 3, and 5, between different rounds of competition, will be entered into the NCAA bid. The full preseason rankings can be found here. Needham said, “it doesn’t really matter what those rankings mean, what matters is what we’re going to do to get the job done.”

The Eagles play next Wednesday, September 21, against UW-Stout. To follow along with the rest of the UWL women’s volleyball season, their website can be found here.