Lauren Carlini and Sindey Hilley have both been bringing a lot of attention to the University of Wisconsin volleyball program with their impressive performances and skills, but which one truly reigns supreme here at UW?Wisconsin volleyball is back in the national spotlight, but for many years that was not the case. After success in the late 90s and early 2000s, the Wisconsin volleyball team failed to make the NCAA tournament for five years.Molly Haggerty: From Big Ten Freshman of the Year to injured reserveMolly Haggerty put in years of hard work and had an impressive resume even before setting foot on the University Read…Enter a new head coach and the top recruit in the country. Both Head Coach Kelli Sheffield and Lauren Carlini came to Madison in 2013, during a time when Wisconsin really needed them. By the time Carlini landed in Madison, she had already been the women’s Gatorade player of the year in 2012, her senior year of high school, an Under Amour All-American and had played on the US Junior National Team. Essentially, when Carlini made her collegiate debut, the volleyball community was excited. Despite the badger’s recent struggles and a coaching change, she decided to go to Wisconsin.With Carlini running the offense as the team’s setter, the badgers began to see success. As the season progressed, the team got better and better, and for the first time in five years the badgers, ranked 12th, made the NCAA tournament. The badgers were a Cinderella story that season. They knocked off top ranked Texas in the semi-finals before falling to Penn State in the National Championship. Despite the loss, the 2013 season was almost everything a badger fan could want. They were winning games, and had a talented young setter that was named a second team All-American. Expectations remained high for Carlini after she led her team to the finals. For her four years playing at UW, she was regarded as one of the best in the business. Announcers, coaches, teammates and foes alike sang her praises.Volleyball: Sheffield brings wealth of talent to team in only four years timeWhen you think about all of the things that can be accomplished in just four years, revamping a volleyball team Read… In just four years, she put the badgers back on the map, and helped change the culture of the program. During her time as a Wisconsin college volleyball player, the team had a culture of winning. Each time they stepped on the court, they wanted to come away with a W. Each year the goal was to win a Big Ten and National Championship. In her sophomore season, they accomplished their goal of winning a Big Ten championship before falling to again to Penn State, but this time in the Elite Eight. During this match, Carlini suffered a severe ankle sprain. Carlini was named a first team All-American.Before her time ran out, she was named first team All-American two more times and led her team to the Sweet Sixteen in 2015, and the Elite Eight in 2016, where she saw her outstanding college career come to an end in five sets against the eventual National Champions, Stanford. The silver lining? She ended her time in Cardinal and White in front of a supportive Field House crowd, where her and the other seniors received standing ovations. The fans realized how much of an impact she had made on the program and were grateful. Since then, she’s received the AAU Sullivan Award, which is awarded to the country’s best amateur athlete. She joined the ranks of Payton Manning and Michael Phelps. She also spent the summer playing for the US Women’s National Team and is currently playing professionally in Italy.Enter Sydney Hilley. Another highly touted recruit, she was ranked the top setter in her class and No. 3 over all. She was the 2016 Minnesota Gatorade volleyball player of the year and had similarly played with the US Junior National Team.Carlini brings home UW’s first Sullivan AwardIt’s official: University of Wisconsin volleyball’s graduating senior Lauren Carlini won the AAU James E. Sullivan Award Tuesday night in Read…Hilley enrolled early last January to train with Carlini. When asked why she chose Wisconsin, she told UW Athletics that her favorite thing about Wisconsin Volleyball is the culture. The same culture that Carlini had helped create. Hilley is just halfway through her freshman season, but she has already made an impact. The badgers are hitting at a clip .308, much to her credit. She is able to put her hitters in positions to score points. She is doing her part to make sure that the program keeps their expectations high, and maintain a winning culture. Undoubtedly, Hilley is a phenomenal player, but it is too early to determine if she will be as good or better than Carlini. Carlini led her team deep into the post season while earning All-American accolades for herself four times. She’s the only Wisconsin volleyball player to be a four time All-American. Even if Sydney Hilley surpasses her predecessor in accomplishments and skill, there can only be one Lauren Carlini. Hilley will make her own significant mark on the Wisconsin volleyball program, but she will never receive the credit for creating the culture of the program. Lauren Carlini had such a large impact on this program, and was the best setter in the country, which are some big shoes to fill. It will be difficult for Hilley to surpass Carlini, but it is still early in her career, and only time will tell.
Q: What have you had to sacrifice in order to be a student-athlete? Q: What is your schedule like? Q: What is it like to be part of a relatively new program? It’s [fun] to be part of a program that’s still growing and new. I was blessed to be part of the freshman class that still had that first senior class to come in. I got to see the process they went through, what they had worked through, and now, you go full circle to a new and different team. But each group that I was with has brought something different. This team has grown so much, and there’s been so many great times and great years. My freshman and sophomore years, we were really top. We had a little bit of a growing year last year. Again, this year, we’ve come back strong and [have] all come together. It’s exciting to see the up-and-downs and now to be on the road to success, [to] be in a group that’s been doing well. It’s a lot of memories all together. There’s been so many things with my team, and all these experiences we have to go through are unique. Things like travel trips are really special to being a student-athlete and things that you can’t get back. I don’t have a specific memory that stands out, but being with my team, being in the locker room, just hanging out. Being down the street from one of my friends and being able to hit them up and go get lunch — those are the things that I am going to miss most when I graduate. It’s much harder in the real world to be able to hang out with your friends. I think it’s just the college experience. I’m sure I haven’t been perfect, but anything I haven’t done right, I’ve been happy for messing up and whatnot. All those lessons that I’ve learned have somehow helped me [later on]. For the most part, I’ve tried my best to squeeze USC in school and service and lacrosse, [to] try to get the most out of it possible. I’m happy with mistakes I have made because I’ve learned a lot from [them], so no huge regrets off the top of my mind. Q: Do you have any regrets from the past four years? My strongest advice when it specifically comes to athletics is to learn to go with the punches. There’s going to be a lot of conflicts, there’s going to be a lot of things that are going to come with being a student athlete, but learning how to take it and go with it and not sit in the moment and complain about it — that’s a big learning curve. That’s going to stop you a little bit from being successful. That’s something that every freshman has to learn. There’s a lot on your plate. For many college students, four years of school can seem to fly by quickly. For student-athletes, grueling workouts, travel and the rigors of competing at the Division I level can make it go by even quicker. In this series, the Daily Trojan sits down with senior athletes playing various sports at USC to discuss their experience over the past four years, from their athletic life to their academic life. This week’s senior is women’s lacrosse defender Jackie Gilbert, a team captain who made last year’s Pac-12 All-Conference First Team. We have our practice block from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Since I’m a senior, my classload isn’t crazy schedule-wise. In previous years, there would usually be class afterward from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., and at 6 p.m., you’re usually studying and doing homework. If you’re traveling, you’re trying to fit in homework and all that, which is usually the hardest. It’s all about prioritizing and trying to get stuff done right away. It’s a lot, but it’s well worth it. Q: What is your favorite memory at USC? We do have to sacrifice a lot, especially if you want to be a top student, too. That’s the hardest balance — being able to have fun and have time with your friends as well as be a top student athlete and a top student. You’re going to have to lose something between there — not be able to go out as much and stuff like that. It’s all about balance. It’s all about knowing what areas are you strong in, when can you have fun? It’s a lot of learning. For the most part, I enjoy it. I enjoy the nature of having to juggle things. If anything, I’d find it harder if I had more time. I’ve appreciated being a student-athlete because it’s made it personally easier. The more things I have, I’m probably more organized. Q: What’s one thing about lacrosse that most people don’t know? Q: What’s next for you? Q: Do you have any advice for freshman athletes? I’m a real estate major and business minor, so afterward I’m working at a company called Eastdil Secured, which does real estate investment sales and investment banking. I hope to try to continue professional lacrosse, if I can do it with my job. But the good thing about our team and culture is everyone really appreciates each other. Our defensive unit is super close. When someone does something that maybe the crowd doesn’t notice, we know and we appreciate it. The game of lacrosse – the intricate details – are something that is still expanding on the west coast. Michelle Mankoff/Daily Trojan There’s probably a lot of things people don’t know. On the west coast, you still get asked, ‘What is lacrosse?’ and whatnot. Things that people don’t know about lacrosse are things that are more intricate to the game and what it takes to be a really good player and especially a defender. It is growing a lot. I’m from the Bay Area. I’ve been here through the growing of lacrosse from when I started in middle school to where it is now. It’s gaining a lot more popularity. I see more and more people out at middle schools playing it. There’s more and more recognition on the west coast. More and more people are getting to know about it, which is really exciting.