The Wisconsin volleyball team has been living up to its high expectations so far this season.
The Badgers entered the season ranked No. 4 and had a lot of buzz surrounding the team that returned most of its star players. The team went 5-0 on its first matches against non-conference opponents, with two opponents ranked in the top 25 in the country. The team dropped its first match last weekend at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against No. 11 North Carolina, but bounced back to beat Louisville.
Injuries have riddled the team. Outside hitters Lauryn Gillis and Molly Haggerty both suffered ankle injuries that left them sidelined last weekend. Kelli Bates, who normally plays libero, filled in as outside hitter, while freshman M.E. Dodge took the libero position.
The big story on the season is Wisconsin’s defense. The Badgers have held six of their seven opponents to less than a .200 hitting percentage. The Badgers average 2.6 digs per set more than all seven of the opponents they’ve faced so far. The Badgers outblock their opponents 3.29/set to 2.60/set, and are ranked second in blocking. Wisconsin sits atop the Big Ten in digs per set with 17.21, as well as opponent hitting percentage (.123).
Haleigh Nelson earned a career-high eight digs against North Carolina last weekend. She currently has 494 blocks in her career at UW, and if she makes it 500, she will become the seventh Wisconsin player to have 500 blocks on her career. Only 40 other women in the history of the Big Ten have also reached this milestone. She ranks seventh on Wisconsin’s record list in blocks, sixth in block assists with 451 and seventh in blocks per set with 1.24. She holds Wisconsin’s record for hitting percentage (.366).
Setter Lauren Carlini has made her mark on the NCAA volleyball world. She sits atop the national active career leaders list with 4,437 assists, and her average is 11.44 assists per set. Carlini had her 60th and 61st career double-doubles this past weekend, tying the UW career record of 61 double-doubles set back in 1996. She is also ranked tenth on the UW record list of digs with 1,123.
Seven Badgers set or tied their personal bests this past weekend at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Some of these milestones include Bates with a career-best seven blocks, and Tionna Williams with a career-high 18.5 points. Haggerty earned four career-best records this past weekend, which included 52 attack attempts, three assists, three blocks, and her first service ace.
The Badgers are red hot right now. They travel to Texas this weekend to face the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies and the No. 2 Texas Longhorns. The team is 6-0 when winning their first set, 6-0 when their opponents hit under .200, 5-0 when having a higher hitting percentage than their opponent, and 5-0 in three set matches.
The team fell to No. 6 after its loss to North Carolina, but they’re bouncing back and hungry for more wins. So far, the Badgers are living up to the hype that has surrounded them this season.
Photo courtesy of UWBadgers.com.