When opposing teams come to Madison to face the UW volleyball team, most of them have a pretty similar game plan: Stop Sherisa Livingston.
'Sherisa's the kind of person who can physically take over a game at the net at any point,' Wisconsin Head Coach Pete Waite said. 'Every opponent has to key on her and try to stop her.'
Unfortunately for the Badgers' opponents, the 6'2\ middle hitter has proven to be almost unstoppable over the past four years.
During her freshman campaign in 1998-'99, Livingston played in all 35 of UW's games and led the team with a .361 hitting percentage. She was also named the Big Ten's Conference Freshman of the Year and earned an honorable mention selection to the All-Conference team.
'I think when she came in as a freshman, there were a lot of strong upperclassmen around her and that allowed her to just play the game and grow a little bit,' Waite said.
Things just got better from there. In 1999, Livingston earned a first-team All-Big Ten selection and helped the Badgers to a 22-10 overall record.
Last year, Livingston was a big part of the most successful season in UW history. The Simi Valley, Calif., native earned All-American honors while leading the Badgers to a 33-4 record and a runner-up finish to national champion Nebraska.
Livingston said while Wisconsin's success last year may have come as a surprise to many of the Badgers' opponents, all of UW's players had confidence in the team's own abilities.
'I think we did expect a lot of success because in the spring we had worked really hard with our strength conditioning coach?? and we felt that we deserved the success that we got,' Livingston said. 'We would have been very disappointed if we hadn't been so successful.'
This season has already gotten off to a rocky start for the Livingston and the Badgers and. Wisconsin lost outside hitters Jenny Maastricht and Meggan Kohnen to graduation, and Claudia Rodriguez retired due to injury.
Losing three key players from last year's squad was tough, but the Badgers got a bigger scare during the last week of August when the College of Letters and Science announced that it was reviewing Livingston's academic eligibility and she would be ineligible to play in Wisconsin's first tournament in Stockton, Calif., Aug. 23 to 24.
Livingston's academic situation was re-evaluated and the College of Letters and Science cleared her to play in the tournament. Livingston said she was unaware of her circumstance, but that the incident did not affect her too much.
'I didn't know anything at all [about the academic situation],' Livingston said. 'It didn't really affect me playing-wise, it just kind of affected me because I've never not traveled. That was kind of hard, but other than that it wasn't a very big deal.'
Two weeks removed from the threat of suspension, Livingston has moved on and is focusing on the rest of the season.
'Now it doesn't seem like it ever happened,' she said.
At present, Livingston is just playing volleyball like she knows how. So far this season, she is averaging 4.74 kills per game, tops on the Badgers' squad. Her 1.1 blocks per game are second to junior middle blocker Amy Hultgren.
'[Livingston's] got all aspects of her game at the net in line right now,' Waite said. 'She's probably the toughest player in the country to stop.'
Livingston, along with setter Lizzy Fitzgerald, is also one of the senior leaders on the team and is helping some of UW's younger players adapt to the college game.
'I think we expect [Livingston] to be a role model for the younger players,' Waite said. 'We definitely can't do it with just our senior class and she's got to be one of [the leaders] to pull the [team] along with her.'