As Wisconsin volleyball head coach Kelly Sheffield watched his team win its second game against the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday night, he knew his team had bought into what they had been training for all year: playing with confidence.With a new head coach and highly-regarded recruiting class, a new era of Wisconsin volleyball is set to begin with a strong foundation to continue on for the future. Sheffield, winner of four season and tournament championships and three Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year awards at Dayton, has already successfully changed the culture of a losing program back to winning one. He needed just 15 games to prove it.“You’ve got to play with enthusiasm. You’ve got to play together. You’ve got to be disciplined,” Sheffield said. “It’s not about yourself, it’s about the team. I want our players to be very confident within themselves and with the team. Confidence comes through by putting the work in and having a vision.”It’s that vision that Sheffield knows will get the Wisconsin volleyball program back to its wonder days. For Sheffield, a team that believes in itself is a team that can win.In the past five years, though, it seemed as if the team had lost its poise. From 1999-2007 under head coach Pete Waite, the team qualified for the NCAA tournament every year and seemed practically unstoppable in the Big Ten. Since 2008, however, the program had gone steadily downhill, which resulted in a 77-80 overall record in the past five years.This year, however, the Badgers have started the season 14-1 and had their best start to the season since 2000 where Wisconsin finished runners-up in the NCAA tournament. And many of the players — such as senior Annemarie Hickey who now has played under both coaches — have taken notice of the changes to the team and styles of coaching.“We knew that it was going to be a lot different with [Sheffield] coming in from our previous years here,” Hickey said. “The team really focused on moving forward and not thinking about the past and that’s kind of what he told us from day one.“We don’t want to worry about what happened two, three, four or five years ago, we just want to keep moving forward. We want to make it better for this team and what we can do better for this team.”Sheffield is always trying to motivate his players but also demands the absolute best and has been known to hold his players accountable if they don’t do as he says, even while training for the upcoming season.“I remember the first week of practice we messed up a couple times, and things that would usually slip, he wouldn’t let happen,” junior starter Ellen Chapman said. “Little things like leaving the ball out, we got punished for. I’m glad that he started the season off with that kind of mindset. Hard work ethic is something he really believes in.”That work ethic has gotten the Badgers off to their fast and triumphant start. Wisconsin always looks composed this year when it takes the court. Sheffield has made sure that they are always prepared for each and every game.The Badgers have proven their tenacity on the court, but its their strong will to play for Sheffield that has really garnered their success.“He’s really good at just giving us a game plan to know what we need to do out there,” Hickey said. “If we’re not doing that game plan, he’s holding us accountable between matches two and three. He’s really good at just motivating us. I hear a lot of my teammates saying I really want to do good for Kelly. That’s one of the big differences, too.”The stakes of coaching volleyball at Wisconsin are much higher than at Dayton, and Sheffield is no fool to that condition. As appreciative as he is for his time at Dayton, he’s well aware of the opportunity he has at Wisconsin and values every day he can coach here.“I had a great job where I was at, a great place to live, worked with great people,” Sheffield said. “But you have the opportunity when you come here to be able to recruit the absolute best in the country. You have the ability at coaching the best and coaching against the best and that was very, very [good for] me. Wisconsin has it all.”And by all, Sheffield doesn’t just mean that Wisconsin is a great sell for both sports and academics while recruiting. He’s also describing the overall atmosphere here and how fans are part of the equation.Sheffield recognizes how supportive and involved Badgers’ fans are to their alma mater and its sports. He knows having fans there at games is what will continue to build on his players’ confidence.“What I’m learning about the fans here is that [the fans] are part of the solution. When the opposing team is getting on a little bit of a run, they’re cheering for us. They’re trying to help us out,” Sheffield said. “Very few places in the country are like that. After a match, I don’t want them to say you played well. I want them to say we played well. That one word is a big part. I think here they believe it’s we, and I love it.”
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Senior forward Sydney Johnson handles the ball in a game against Colorado at McAlister Field in Los Angeles. Photo by Mohammad Alsubaie | Daily TrojanThe No. 5 women’s soccer team (13-1-1) returns home from a successful Washington weekend road trip ready to play host to a challenging No. 16 Cal (13-2-1) team on Thursday. Cal will represent the toughest test for the Trojans this season as the conclusion of the Pac-12 season arrives. The Golden Bears played Oregon on Sunday at home, downing the Ducks 3-0. Oregon was able to keep the score respectable for the entire first half, entering halftime tied 0-0. However, as the game went on, the Ducks defense started to fall apart. Three goals in 10 minutes from the Cal offense resigned Oregon to its fate, as Cal outshot the Ducks 14-8 (8-3 on target) this game.Cal is led in scoring by sophomore midfielder Abi Kim and junior forward Miranda Nild, who have 7 and 6 goals, respectively, this season. These two represent the key pieces of the Cal attack and will need to be marked at all times by the USC defense.The Golden Bears are a very dangerous team not only in attack — as demonstrated by the exploits by Kim and Nild — but also in defense, only conceding 6 goals all season. In comparison, the Trojans have conceded 9 goals this season. Cal has also been high-scoring this season, netting 1.56 goals per game compared to its opponent’s 0.38 goals per game. The Trojans will have to find a way to break down the Golden Bears’ defense, which is led by seniors Indigo Gibson and Haley Lukas, who have started 16 and 15 of Cal’s games this season, respectively. The Trojans will continue to rely on senior forward Alex Anthony, who scored yet again this past weekend, netting twice against Washington, bringing her goal tally up to 7 this season. She is helped by junior forward Leah Pruitt, who also scored this past weekend, putting her name on the scoresheet in Sunday’s game against Washington State. Both will hope to continue their scoring form tomorrow as the Cal defense will not be easy to score against. Chances will be few and far between, so the Trojans’ offense will have to be on high alert and not waste any chances. This game will pit free-scoring offenses against stringent defenses, not prone to many mistakes and allowing easy goal-scoring opportunities. This game — placing USC (second in the Pac-12 standings) against Cal (tied for third in the Pac-12 standings) — will be an a great barometer for the Trojans, as they will be able to see how they compare with a Pac-12 and national powerhouse. The Trojans’ offense and defense will both have to show up ready to play and battle, knowing that this Cal team represents their greatest test yet. The offense will have to take its opportunities when given, making each chance count, while the defense will have to remain strong, not allowing the Golden Bears to attack any open spaces in the defense. If the Trojans can accomplish these tasks, a place in the top five of the national rankings is certainly achievable and will provide a confidence booster for the following two games against No. 1 Stanford and No. 6 UCLA.