Wisconsin — favored in the Big Ten Volleyball Preseason Poll — is on the road to securing their fifth consecutive championship this fall. With transfer Temi Thomas-Ailara on the court, their chances are even better.
Thomas-Ailara tried out multiple sports as a child. By the time she joined her first club volleyball team at ten years old, she was hooked. After years of training and dedication, she committed to Northwestern University at the end of her sophomore year of high school and went on to compete as a Wildcat for four years.
Thomas-Ailara found herself in the recruitment process once again after joining the transfer portal last winter. She ultimately chose Wisconsin because of the Badgers’ high-caliber program and the university’s opportunities to continue pursuing a career in healthcare.
After a phenomenal four-year career at Northwestern, the 6-foot-2 outside hitter hopes to pick up her streak of offensive domination exactly where she left off. Players and spectators alike expect great things from her this season as she spends her last year of collegiate eligibility as a Badger.
Thomas-Ailara — selected for the Preseason All-Big Ten team — has proven to be a force for Wisconsin, playing a key role in their winning streak. In the first matchup against Baylor on Aug. 25, she totaled 12 kills, resulting in a 0.500 hitting percentage, tying her career-high and setting the tone for an exciting season. Since then, Thomas-Ailara has racked up 80 kills, nine service aces and 42 digs. She currently stands with a 0.197 hitting percentage.
Coming to the team with a decorated athletic resume, Thomas-Ailara’s success is no surprise. She led the Big Ten with 502 kills in the 2022 season, was a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection three times and a second-team AVCA All-American in 2022. She set Northwestern’s record for kills per set at 4.04 during her time as a Wildcat.
The Badgers reigned victorious each of the five times Thomas-Ailara battled Wisconsin during her time at Northwestern. On Sept. 24, the time came for her to be on the other side of the matchup.
Competing in a highly-anticipated game against her former teammates, Thomas-Ailara ultimately clinched a victory in the Badgers Big Ten opener with a service ace in the third set.
Beyond the depth of skill and experience she adds to the team, Thomas-Ailara has already embraced the values of UW-Madison during her transition.
“Being a Badger means that you're actively searching for ways to improve and bringing others with you,” she said.
Thomas-Ailara’s positivity and unwavering support of her teammates are evident on and off the court and are sure to aid her in her pursuit of individual and collective growth.
With the season well underway, the team has established a commanding presence. Thomas-Ailara will continue to be a player to watch as she adjusts to her new environment and Wisconsin continues the journey to the NCAA tournament in late November.