Volleyball heads to Michigan for weekend series

first_imgThe No. 4 Wisconsin volleyball, a team on a hot-streak of 11 consecutive match wins, will head to Ann Arbor and East Lansing to battle Michigan and Michigan State this weekend.With average overall records for Michigan (10-12, 5-7 Big Ten) and Michigan State (13-10, 6-6 Big Ten), University of Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield said he thinks both of these Big Ten teams bring more to the court than they are given credit for, or what their records may indicate.“They’ve had varied results on the season, and I think [they’re] two clubs that are really talented, and their highs are very high,” Sheffield said. “When they’re playing well, they can beat anybody in the country.”Some of these highs for Michigan and Michigan State come from a few key players on each squad.Senior setter Lexi Dannemiller runs Michigan’s offense and has totaled 510 assists this season. She averages 11.33 assists per set, just behind Wisconsin setter and Big Ten leader sophomore Lauren Carlini, who averages 11.42.Dannemiller is not the only weapon that fuels the Wolverine offense, however. Sophomore middle blocker Abby Cole has put up big offensive numbers for Michigan. She leads her team with 295 kills at a 3.87 kill percentage in just her second year in Ann Arbor. The 6-foot-5 Grand Haven, Michigan native was awarded Big Ten Player of the Week for the second consecutive week Oct. 20.“They’ve got one of the best setters in the country, and they’ve got a middle [blocker] who’s just a wrecking ball against anyone she’s playing against,” Sheffield said. “Dannemiller and Cole; those are two really really stud players.”Michigan State also has a key player who poses a threat in the Spartans’ backcourt.MSU’s senior libero and three-time captain Kori Moster has served as the defensive linchpin for the Spartans during her college career. From her freshman season until her most recent match, the two-time All-American passes with about 96 percent accuracy off of her opponents’ serves. Two weeks ago Moster surpassed a career total of 2,000 digs, placing her in the same category as only seven other Spartan volleyball players.“Michigan is driven by their setter. Michigan State is driven by their libero. I think those two are two of the best at their positions in the country,” Sheffield said.The Badgers seem to be driven by a handful of their own players as well, including Carlini who may stand out the most. During the press conference following Wisconsin’s sweep of Nebraska, Sheffield complimented Carlini’s control and ownership of the court. The 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year said that she looks up to historic team leaders such as Peyton Manning and Michael Jordan for inspiration when it comes to being a leader.Carlini is on the same wavelength as her head coach when contemplating the upcoming matches against both Michigan and Michigan State.“They’re really good, capable teams. Their records may not show it as much, but they have their great days. We have to be prepared for that and expect them to be on their A-game,” Carlini said.Carlini commented that she is working to connect more with her middles this week during practice in preparation for some tough defensive net play by Cole. She says the team plans to find holes in the defense and do what they can to work around Cole.“We have some momentum with us and we’re all super confident and we’re all focusing on one game at a time. Focusing on the little things and the tasks at hand,” Carlini said.As Wisconsin starts to think ahead to greater things, the coaches and players expressed that they do not let themselves get distracted or caught up with their successes on the court.“It’s nice to have it in the back of our heads that we’ve been sweeping a lot, but at the same time we don’t look back at the past, we just focus on our next opponent,” freshman outside hitter Kelli Bates explained. “We don’t talk about what’s happened. It’s [about] moving forward and getting better.”Bates and Sheffield both expressed the team’s aspiration of a Big Ten Championship title being on their radar, but it is not something that bogs them down when playing matches or participating in practices. Wisconsin has been moving through their season one game at a time and now heads to Michigan hoping to continue paving their pathway to success.“You can’t afford losing to teams in the Big Ten, especially if we want the Big Ten Championship,” Bates said. “We have to win these games.”With the possibility of the Big Ten championship getting closer with each win, it’s hard for the Badgers to not look ahead towards the bigger picture.For the time being, they’ll head to Michigan looking for two more conference wins. The Badgers will take on Michigan Friday at 6 p.m. before finishing the weekend against Michigan State Sunday at 12 p.m.last_img

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