Hitting the road to play a pair of top-tier teams, No. 6 Wisconsin (8-1) finished out its nonconference schedule with two wins, beating No. 16 Texas A&M (6-5) and No. 2 Texas (8-2) in what proved to be a landmark weekend in The Lone Star State.
Freshman outside hitter Molly Haggerty has shown much promise in her first handful of matches as a member of the Badgers, emerging as a key ingredient to Wisconsin’s strong start in 2016. The high hopes already thrust upon the fledgling freshman will likely continue to rise after her record-setting weekend in Texas.
Powering her team to victory, Haggerty carved out her spot in Badger history by racking up 27 kills on the way to a 25-16, 25-17, 25-22 sweep of No. 16 Texas A&M in College Station Friday evening. With her sensational performance, Haggerty now holds the school record for kills in a three-set match, shattering the previous high-mark of 19 achieved by Elise Walch in 2010. The milestone also ties the record for kills tallied in a five-set match.
Against the Aggies, Haggerty’s impact was both immediate and unwavering. The Badgers opened the match by scoring five straight points, three of which came off of Haggerty kills. She would increase that number to nine before the first set came to an end, as the Badgers took a 1-0 lead. In the second, the defense was able to feed off Haggerty’s energy and enthusiasm, as Wisconsin came up with three consecutive blocks and sealed its second consecutive set. The freshman carried her success over to the final set, adding three more kills to end the day and complete the sweep.
Then, two days later, Haggerty would once again find herself in the leading role for the Badgers as they took on No. 2 Texas. In a much closer match, Wisconsin outlasted the vaunted Longhorns 3-2 and picked up a signature win over a national powerhouse. Turning in a team-high 20 kills and four aces, Haggerty was a deciding factor in the come-from-behind victory.
After dropping the first two sets of the contest, Wisconsin successfully fended off elimination in the third, edging UT late in the third by scoring the last three points of the set en route to a tight 25-23 victory. Slogging ahead, the Badgers caught fire in the fourth set, going on a crucial 6-0 run that would swing the momentum and set the tone for the remainder of the afternoon. In the fifth and final set, UW snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, batting back from a one-point deficit which bedeviled the Badgers the majority of the set, to squeak by 20-18 and complete the upset.
Tionna Williams also rose to the occasion Sunday afternoon, contributing 11 kills along with a match-high eight blocks.
As a team, Wisconsin can look back on the events of this weekend with great pride. Not only did they witness history, but they also proved themselves capable of defeating quality teams on the road, something that may strengthen their case for a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
Wisconsin will begin the Big Ten season next weekend as they return to the UW Field House. They will host No. 18 Ohio State at 7 p.m. Friday, before proceeding to play Maryland Saturday at 7 p.m.