The long road finally leads home, with some critical victories in hand.
The WisconsinBadgers logged over 12,000 miles in the non-conference portion of the schedule this year, including trips through Hawaii, North Carolina and Texas. That trek ended this weekend with wins over a couple of ranked teams in the Lone Star State, including a huge comeback victory over No. 2 Texas in Austin on Sunday. Here are the weekend results:
Sunday, Sept. 18: Badgers vs. Texas
What a match.
Service errors were a recurring theme early in Austin before the Badgers rallied back to win sets three and four. The final set was an epic back-and-forth, with the Badgers ultimately defeating the the formerly No. 2 (now No. 5) Longhorns 20-18 to win 3-2.
Struggling early against their fellow championship contender, UW couldn’t get much going in the first two sets against Paulina Prieto Cerame, Micaya White and the rest of the ‘Horns. Everything changed in the third set, though, as the Badgers started their epic rally. Tionna Williams (11 kills and a match-high eight blocks), Lauren Carlini (54 assists, 11 digs, six blocks), Haleigh Nelson (seven blocks), Kelli Bates (15 kills, 15 digs) and Molly Haggerty (20 kills, 14 digs) all came up big.
Nelson also notched her 500th career block and Carlini recorded her 62nd career double-double (a UW school record).
Friday, Sept. 16: Badgers vs. Texas A&M
Oh my, Molly Haggerty. The 6’1 freshman outside hitter from Glen Ellyn, Ill., brought down the thunder on the overmatched Aggies, setting a UW three-set record for kills (27) as the Badgers swept then-No. 16 (now No. 19) Texas A&M 3-0 in College Station. Tionna Williams and Lauren Carlini led the way on defense with six blocks each. Carlini had 40 assists.
After the epic weekend, the accolades started to roll in:
If it bleeds, Molly Haggerty can kill it.
If Tionna Williams is at the net, you shall not pass.
The now third-ranked Badgers have Ohio State next on Friday to start the conference schedule. The Big Ten women’s volleyball slate is a merciless buzzsaw this year, with eight teams in the AVCA Top 25, including the top three spots.
Get to know the ranked opponents (poll numbers through Sept. 19):
No. 1 Nebraska (Oct. 21, Lincoln)
The defending 2015 champions haven’t lost a step this year. Dropping only two sets so far this year, the Huskers return a number of AVCA 2015 All-Americans including twins Kadie (first-team) and Amber (second-team) Rolfzen. Also, in a stat that should be of great concern to UW fans, Nebraska leads the nation in average attendance (8,249). (Note: the Badgers are third at 5,958. Let’s fix this.
No. 2 Minnesota (Oct. 12, Madison; Nov. 26, Minneapolis)
That school to the northwest was a Final Four team last year. The Gophers are second in the nation at 3.42 blocks per set and boast the reigning Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Hannah Tapp. The week of Sept. 12, the Gophers had three players receiving Big Ten Player of the Week honors (Tapp, co-defensive; Samantha Sellger-Swenson, setter; Alexis Hart, freshman). The Thanksgiving weekend matchup in Minneapolis looks to have major tournament implications.
No. 10 Purdue (Sept. 30, West Lafayette; Nov. 5, Madison)
The Boilermakers followed up their defeat of Stanford with an upset of then-No. 4 (now No. 8) Kansas on Friday. Led by middle blockers Faye Adelaja and Danielle Cuttino (Big Ten Player of the Week, Sept. 12-18), Purdue was an NCAA tournament team last year. It has a hard road back, though, with the third-hardest schedule (Wisconsin checks in at No. 8).
No. 17 Ohio State (Sept. 23, Madison; Nov. 2, Columbus)
This week’s opponent comes into Madison riding a four-match win steak. Returning first-team AVCA All-American middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe, the Buckeyes are hoping to make some magic happen this year as they are the hosts for this year’s national championship.
No. 18 Penn State (Oct. 28, Madison)
Perennial powerhouses, the Nittany Lions have won seven NCAA titles under coach (and prolific purveyor of DVDs) Russ Rose, including 2012, 2013 and 2014. Looking to recover from a third-round knockout at the hands of Hawaii last year, Penn State boasts middle blocker Haleigh Washington, a first-team AVCA All-American in 2015.
No. 20 Michigan State (Nov. 19, Madison)
A tournament team last year, the Spartans are riding a six-match winning streak, including three straight sweeps over Notre Dame, Maryland-Eastern Shore and DePaul.
No. 22 Michigan (Oct. 15, Ann Arbor; Nov. 18, Madison)
An NCAA tournament team last year, the Wolverines are led by Jenna Lerg (5.65 digs per set) and middle blocker Abby Cole (second-team AVCA All-American last year).
News of the unranked:
- Maryland’s Ashlyn McGregor ranks third in the country in blocks per set (1.88). The Terrapins as a team are ninth in country with 3.06 blocks per set.
- Illinois’s Ali Bastinanelli is fifth in the country with 1.80 blocks per set.