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Blugold women's volleyball team celebrates national championship

Photo caption: The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire won its first women’s volleyball national championship on Nov. 20.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire won its first women’s volleyball national championship on Saturday night and the magnitude of the moment still is sinking in for everyone surrounding the program.

“It’s definitely surreal,” senior Makenzie Bachmann, a native of Chaska, Minnesota, who will graduate in December with an English teaching major, communication studies minor and a certificate in social work, child welfare, said Tuesday morning on WEAU-TV. “I just keeping saying it out loud to everybody I’m talking to that we are national champions.”

The Blugolds won the NCAA Division III title at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, on Nov. 20 with a 3-0 sweep of Calvin University. The fourth-seeded Blugolds had defeated Juniata College and Tufts University the previous two days to advance to the championship match.

Senior Taylor Scalia said this year’s volleyball team was inspired by the 2018 volleyball team’s run to the Final Four and was determined to win the program’s first national title.

“It’s just an amazing feeling and so cool that all the hard work paid off,” said Scalia, who will graduate in December with an information systems major, a marketing minor and certificates in digital marketing analytics and organizational communication.

Another senior, Kendra Baierl, was ecstatic during an interview upon returning to Eau Claire Sunday night.

“It’s been crazy,” Baierl, who will graduate in December with majors in psychology and marketing, and a minor in management, said at the welcome home celebration at McPhee Physical Education Center. “I’m just trying to soak it all in and remember these moments. This is once in a lifetime and I just feel so lucky to have ended my career this way.”

Head Coach Kim Wudi, who was an all-conference and all-region volleyball player at UW-Eau Claire, played for Blugold Hall of Fame coach Lisa Herb. Wudi said she is a proud Blugold who was happy her former coach was able to hold the national championship trophy this week.

Wudi credited the “family atmosphere” surrounding the volleyball program in its quest for a title.

“When you have a lot of people in pursuit of a similar goal it really is like a family,” Wudi said. “There is so much love and so much support for each other – both on and off the court. We’re there for each other through thick and thin. There’s been a lot of adversity over the last couple of years and for us to get through that together was amazing.”

Director of Athletics Dan Schumacher noted that some of the senior players will graduate in December.

“Now they’re going to walk out of here with a ring on their finger as a national champion and they’re going to have a diploma in the other hand,” Schumacher said.

The national championship is the 14th in UW-Eau Claire history in either NCAA or NAIA.