Friday, November 22, 2013

Tourney Time

Well sports fans, it is time. No, not time to put in the turkey and definitely not time to start rocking out to "Here Comes Santa Claus" in your car alone...or is that just me? I'm talking about conference tournament time! Friday kicks off the Horizon League Volleyball Tournament and we are right here in home sweet home, MKE.

We are currently in first place with a 12-2 conference record, giving us not only hosting rights but also a first round bye into the semifinals. Valpo also received a bye because they are seeded second.

This will be the second time I have been a part of hosting the conference tournament and I gotta say, wow. It is such a great atmosphere walking in to the gym having banners and signs everywhere, just being able to be apart of it. I am sure you will all feel the same when you walk into the gym this weekend (because you will all be there).

A little breakdown for you all. Friday is the quarterfinals, fourth seeded Green Bay kicks off the night by playing fifth seed Youngstown State at 4:30. In conference, these two teams have each beaten each other once, so it should be a good game to watch. Then after that match, third seed Oakland will play sixth seed Cleveland State, and these two teams also have a win under their belt when it comes to playing one another.

We head into Saturday starting at 4:30 pm, when yours truly plays which ever team has the lowest seed coming out of Friday night’s play. Then at 7, Valpo will take on the remaining team. Then Sunday comes, and at 1 the last two teams in the tournament will play for the crown.

A couple shout-outs are clearly in order before we start this weekend. First off, Susie was named HL Coach of the Year for the fifth time in just seven years! Senior Rachel Neuberger was named Horizon League Volleyball Player of the Year, while in addition to her, Julie Kolinski and Kayla Price made the All-League team! And lastly freshman standout Myanna Ruiz got a well-earned position on the All-Freshman team.

The path to a championship is a long, atrocious journey. Along this broken road comes absolutely joy and heartbreak. This weekend the journey concludes for the Horizon League, some will be left wondering what if, for others the long hard hours put in will be well paid off for a trip to the NCAA tournament. The 2013 Horizon League Women's Volleyball Tournament is now. Until next time...

"Just Play Volleyball" Susie Johnson

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Saluting A Great Senior

It was a jam-packed weekend full of volleyball here in Milwaukee. A lot of emotions and many tears of joy and unfortunately, some sad. But all together it was a great weekend to be a Panther.

Friday, Valpo came into the gym with some anger behind their eyes. Last time we were matched with Valpo we were in Valparaiso and we beat them three games to none. Valpo came in ready for a battle, and a battle we played. Unfortunately, we could not stop the Crusaders and the came out with a L three games to one. Rachel and Julie lead the team in kills each having 14 or more but our team 36 errors put up a bit of a roadblock for us on the offensive side.

We brushed off the loss and came back into the gym Saturday afternoon ready to play in our last conference home game. A great way to start the game was honoring lone senior Rachel Neuberger, who had 13 kills on the match against UIC and we swept the Flames in three, once more. Neuberger not only grabbed a handful of kills but blocks as well. There was even a play were the ball never came back on the Panthers side because Rachel refused to let it, and after three of four blocks she fearlessly ended the rally with a solo block, and the crowd went wild.

This win over UIC puts us currently at 10-1. We were tied for first place for only about less than 24 hours due to Valpo losing to Green Bay Saturday afternoon, which put us back into first place a game ahead of current number 2 Valpo.

The Panther family met again on Sunday afternoon for the Senior Banquet where Kleenexs were a must. A great celebration filled with season highlights and a hilarious video of Susie mic'd up had the whole restaurant laughing. Some fellow teammates shared meaningful thoughts and stories of their time at Milwaukee with Rachel and then she gave an outstanding speech herself.

Rachel is a great person and athlete. It has been more than a pleasure watching her play the last three years I have been so lucky to be a part of this program. The great news is that this season is far from over, we still have three road matches left, a conference tournament to win, and then a first round NCAA match to win, and I have no doubt in my mind Rachel will help lead the Panthers to many more victories before her time here ends.

Until next time...

"A successful team is a group of many hands but of one mind." -Bill Bethel

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


This weekend we were back at home to finish out the first half of conference play. Friday night we faced Cleveland State and a huge shout out goes to Rachel. She had 20 kills on the match to aid in our .339 combined hitting percentage and also making this the third time Rachel has had 20+ kills in the a match in her career. And Rachel was named Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week! Way to go Rach!

In addition to the outstanding offense Maisey and Taylor also collected over 10 digs each in the back row. We won the first and third game with little problem, the second game got off to a rocky start but the Panthers showed their incredible work ethic and motivation to win with a great comeback.

After a solid win on Friday night we were all ready to go in our pink to take on the Youngstown State Penguins. Although some of the Penguins got a good laugh from my pain before the game it wasn't enough to take down the Panthers. I was excited to wear the boots I had just bought but I had yet another wardrobe malfunction; though this time it didn't have to do with a book getting thrown at my feet but it was definitely in that ballpark. Being the terrible shopper I am I really didn't try on the boots before I bought them; just found my size and left. Well the boots were pretty tight around my calves and entire legs for that matter and by the time I got to the gym I had already lost any and all circulation in my legs. I was walking down the back stairs by Youngstown’s locker room and much to my surprise the team was just hanging out in the hallway. I'm going to let you in on a little secret, if you can't feel your legs and are going to try and go down a set of stairs, save yourself the embarrassment and find the closest elevator. I fell, and I mean fell..hard, so there's that.

After my graceful fall, Julie and Sammi came out swinging each getting 12 kills on the match and contributing to the .381 hitting percentage, Rachel collected 5 blocks and Taylor digging up 17 hits for the defense. Two nice wins this weekend helps us advance to 7-0 in conference and 11-8 for the season.

This means we are done with the first half of conference play and ready to take on everyone one more time. We start the second half of the conference by taking quite the road trip as we travel to Wright State and Oakland! The quote this week is always a favorite of every female athlete, or every female sports fan out there. Great job this weekend Panthers!

Until next time…

"Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked for her." -Mia Hamm

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ice Box, Sweat Box, Two Bigs Wins

Greetings fellow readers, I hope the week treated you well! It is officially fall, volleyball is in full swing, the leaves are changing colors, and every other Twitter or Facebook post you see is someone trash talking their most hated NFC North team. In unrelated news, did anyone catch that Packer game Sunday? Ouch, tough day to be a Lion fan, am I right?

This weekend was one of the quicker road trips we have in the conference. We started out leaving Friday early afternoon and headed down to the traffic-filled city and made our way to UIC. As we walked into the gym, we all found ourselves immediately looking for one another's dead eye contact to make sure everyone was feeling the same thing we were. It was negative four in the gym, okay, maybe not that cold, but it was pretty cold! I’ll tell you, it was nothing short of being at the Frozen Tundra for a Packer game, minus the snow.

Despite the cold the Panthers played an outstanding game. The highlight of the game, for me, was in game three when we went on a nine-point run. Four of those points were epic blocks and the entire Milwaukee side of the gym was on their feet. We froze the Flames in three and got the heck out of that ice box.

We hit the road right away after getting some food ordered to the gym. We open the bags and start handing out the team’s food boxes when we realize there is an abundance of chips! The PCC clearly thought we deserved extra chips after that big cold win. Thanks PCC!

We made it to the hotel to find out that there was no set time for breakfast and that we just needed to be ready a little before noon on Saturday. Hearing the great news of being able to sleep in, my wonderful roommate Renee and I raced to our room to go to bed. We opened the door to find only one bed in front of us. I thought a nice game of rock-paper-scissors would suffice to find out who got the bed, but Renee thought it was better to take no prisoners and violently wrestled me to the ground for the bed. Don't believe me? Good, because that is obviously not true. I actually secretly love pull-out couches, no joke, so I took it without any hesitation.

We get to the Valpo gym, where we find it is a sweat box. Really? We all came prepared wearing layers still trying to thaw out from UIC and now it’s a million degrees? Cool. While we are waiting for the team to get ready and come out to serve and pass, whoever was DJing decided to put on the heaviest metal music ever. Much to our dislike, I guess I never really imagined Valparaiso being a “head-banging” metal school. "Party on Wayne."

With no hesitation we picked up where we left off the night before and beat Valparaiso in three. Taylor Golabowski collected 24 digs in the back row, and earned herself Horizon League Defenseive Player of the Week! Way to go Tay Tay! After the big win we were all ready to get back on the bus and head back to good ‘ole Milwaukee. Friday we take on our in state rival Green Bay at home! I better see you all there! Until next time...

"Show class, have pride and display character. And if you do, winning will take care of itself." - Coaching great Paul "Bear" Bryant.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The Packers are 1-2 and had a bye this weekend, Brewers didn’t even have a glimmering hope of getting into the playoffs and between the ASU crap call and the Badgers losing to Ohio State, I found myself starting to slip into some sort of a Wisconsin sports fanatic depression. But that didn’t last long because the Panthers went 2-0 to kick of conference play this past weekend!

The weekend started Friday night when we took on the newbies to the conference, Oakland. The fearless Grizzles came into the K ready for a challenge, but little did they know they were going to be playing against the Panthers and also the student crowd! The Milwaukee Swim and Dive team came and started a cheering section for the game, and they did a stand up job. Not only did they come in their “uniforms” but also with some sweet body paint displaying Panther prints and claw marks for some serious Panther Pride. They made a great and hilarious use out of the song Sail by AWOLNATION. All you need to know about the song is that it is pretty catchy, there are some lyrics you can’t really understand and then you hear a guy yell “SAIL”. Every time they would play the song (which was often) the cheering section would time it perfectly and scream out “sail” regardless if the song was still on or not. A huge shout out to all of you that came out and saw Myanna, Rachel, Julie and Nicole tear up the court offensively.

We sailed through Saturday as we took on Wright State, and I am happy to tell you there was never a moment when I thought a pen, book or 10-pound necklace was going to get thrown at me. We shut the Raiders out, putting up over 13 blocks allowing them to only hit a mere .047, and a huge shout-out goes to sophomore Nicole Latzig for collecting seven of those blocks!

Rachel was the queen of smashing overpasses this weekend, which brought back a painful memory for me. Rachel and I were seniors playing in a tournament, her repping Muskego and myself repping Kenosha Tremper; it didn’t end well for the Trojans let me tell you. Tremper had an overpass and Rachel, fearlessly, went to take care of it. The Trojans weren’t known for their blocking my senior year, so I’m sitting on the 10-foot line on the right side as the ball gets pounded in my face. Unfortunately my mom had the video camera rolling so the play is on record lingering somewhere in my parents basement. Nice job Rache, as for myself…hashtag embarrassing.

Susie’s metaphor this weekend was great as usual; we have been “studying” all preseason and this first week of conference it was time to take the “test.” We have been working very hard in the gym and all preseason as a result we are ready to take on the Horizon League full force. For all you Yankee fans out there, the quote this week comes from Derek Jeter on hard work, because we truly displayed hard work paying off this weekend. “There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do”

This weekend we head down to UIC and then make our way over to Valparaiso for another battle in conference play. For those of you who are making the drive down, I’ll see ya then; for the rest of you, until next time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Boots With The Fuuuuuur

It was a challenging week for the Panther volleyball team. The week started out by playing in our home opener Tuesday night against the Iowa Hawkeyes. We had a great crowd that brought a lot of energy and really got the team pumped, and Iowa a little skittish. It was a very exciting five-set match, unfortunately the Hawkeyes came with the W. Although we suffered another loss the team had much to be proud of, for instance Julie’s wicked 21 kills and Myanna’s stealthy 18.

The only real problem I had on the night was the fact that one of our warm-up songs just so happens to be “All Star” by Smash Mouth, and you all know how I feel about that song. Nails on a chalkboard people!

Friday at practice we were gearing up and talking about ways we could beat Florida. Because there is never a dull moment with Susie, she had us laughing by writing on the board Flo Rida not Florida. For those of you who don’t know Flo Rida is a “rapper” (I use that term very generously because I think he is awful) who is from Florida and because he has as much creativity as I do in my left toe, he chose the name Flo Rida. Susie made the clever reference to the rapper and then started dancing and singing his lyrics “shorty got them apple bottom jeans, boots with the fuuuuuur.”

Before I tell you about the games we played at Marquette, I would like to take this time to thank the people in charge of playing the warm-up songs. I was so excited when I heard “All Star” by Smash Mouth played and making its mark as being played at every single tournament we went to this preseason. If anyone cares, yes, my ears are still bleeding.

Number-four ranked Florida showed up with some serious hops and mad blocks but unfortunately no apple bottom jeans or boots with fur, which was a bummer. Florida is the highest-ranked opponent we have ever played, and played they did. Committing on Rachel right away and insane jump serves restricted us a little, and we ended up losing in three.

Sunday we headed back to the Al to take on Marquette to wrap up the tournament. Things really didn’t go as well as it could have - put it to you this way, I got Susie’s book thrown at my feet. Marquette came out right away with no hesitation and basically kept constant for the entirety of the match. But not all frowns! Both the Taylors had pretty solid games, Golabowski collecting 10 digs in the back-row and the always cheerful, fun to watch Grubs got herself in the game and showed Marquette’s outside hitter that she wasn’t afraid of her, and got a bunch of touches on blocks.

Our preseason schedule is now over after this weekend and a big part of it was overcoming obstacles. Obstacles in which every team out is overcoming now as well - new roster, game plan, game mentality, and especially for us a challenging preseason. Michael Jordan said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around or give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

This week starts conference play and the Panthers are home! I expect to see every single one of you at Friday night’s game against Oakland and Saturday against Wright State. And to the students reading this, you get in for free if you bring you ID and parties don’t start until after 9 anyways. I don’t want to hear about how you are poor and can’t afford to get in or about how there is some “killer” party somewhere around campus in someone’s basement. It’s going to get busted anyways, so we’ll see you at the game.

Lastly, for all you Twitter folks out there, follow me @kHegewald24 for Katelyn’s Corner for pictures and updates about the team and also @SusiesSidekick where I’ll be posting the all wisdom and humor of Susie Johnson. See you all Friday!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Great Day To Be A Panther

Another weekend down! I know you all missed me, but due to some last-minute class scheduling I was unable to take the trip to Ohio last weekend to watch the Panthers take the Akron Invitational title. No need to reach for the tissues, I am back at it and ready to tell you all about this past weekend as we took on the always welcoming city of Mad-Town.

I knew it was going to be a great weekend about 20 minutes into the trip for two reasons. One, everyone got their chips! Let me explain, I am basically in charge of anything food-related during the season and Jimmy Johns is a staple for our bus ride meals. Every time we order from there, we always seem to an encounter with what I like to call the PCC. The Phantom Chip Changer (PCC) is a mythical creature who likes to mess with our Jimmy John chip orders so we either come up short a bag or someone doesn’t get the chips they wanted. But no devilish minions were cause this weekend by the PCC, and that is most definitely a win in my book. Reason number two is very simple; no one’s heads were in trash cans because of motion sickness and lack of bus driving skills.

Keeping in with the theme of food, our Thursday night dinner was pretty sweet. We walk in and get escorted up to the top of what seems to be a loft type area, and we are overlooking the entire restaurant/bar. Between Susie looking over the balcony with a huge smile on her face screaming, “Woo, isn’t this so cool!” (which indeed it was) and her trying to squeeze players into a picture with the balcony scenery in the back, it’s easy to say that we all had an extremely fun night. Sadly, our next sit down meal on Friday was a little lacking in the fun category, and for some of us the food category as well. Susie got noodles with pesto; which in reality was pesto, with a little bit of noodles, sorry Suz.

We played Kansas Friday morning, and lost in three. We then ended the day with a big win against Bowling Green! The girls saw an awesome opportunity to work together, work hard, and just play volleyball, and played they did. An outstanding effort as a team, a game that was fun to watch and not to mention they definitely deserved that win.

We stayed for the Wisconsin-Kansas game, and the Badger Band was there to impress once again. Having the band there was such a nice break from the constant repetition of the song “All Star” by Smash Mouth. Maybe it was just me, but if I never hear that song again in my life, I’ll be okay, because it literally got played at least 87 times. Nonetheless, you could find some of our team and most of the coaches dancing and singing along with the band, especially to my personal favorite, Sweeeeet Caroline (Bum Bum Bum).

Speaking of singing, after Kansas beat Wisconsin in a crazy five-set thriller we got to hear a very enjoyable number on the way back to the hotel. Our bus had a microphone and our bus driver was more than willing to turn it on, and yes, you guessed it the one and only Susie Johnson was singing to us of all. It was throwback Friday in the Coach USA and Susie was center stage! It was a lovely performance, myself and the whole team loved it, even Lindsey and Nikki were involved some backup singing. Clearly, this wasn’t the first time they all sang this song together. Bravo coaches!

Saturday we played the Badgers, we fought hard but lost in four. This weekend was all about opportunity, in my opinion. I absolutely love pre-season for one main reason; opportunity. I love that we go hard and play top ranked teams, teams that probably over-look us which gives us all the more reason to go in there and come out on top. We are a team that works hard and takes these risks and opportunities and evidently I believe, is going to play into our benefit when it is all said and done.

Before I sign off here with my themed quote of the week a huge shout out is in order to UW-Milwaukee’s very own student-athlete Paula Kuiper for her outstanding performance at the Miss America pageant Sunday night! Myself and all of UWM were watching and cheering for Paula, what a great job she did and she looked absolutely stunning!

To end, it was a very good weekend in my eyes, we played hard and just had an all-around good time. This weekend was a great opportunity for us to get better and take a giant step forward, which we did. Until next time… “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky