Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield has maybe the best player in this Austin volleyball regional, yet he doesn’t care to talk about her.
“I don’t think right now I am going to get into talking about that,” Sheffield said Thursday about setter Lauren Carlini. “She would be the first one to say let’s hold off on that stuff until the team banquet.”
Florida coach Mary Wise, who’s charged with building a game plan around the Big Ten setter of the year, had plenty to say on the eve of their Friday semifinal.
“I think it’s safe to say that we will be playing, when you think about all the setters we have played against in our history, this one may go to the top just in terms of NCAA’s all-time best collegiate setter,” Wise said.
Carlini, the nation’s top recruit in 2012, has partnered with Sheffield over the past three seasons to orchestrate an impressive rebuild in Madison. Together they have won 85 of 104 matches and are making their third straight regional appearance, this after Wisconsin missed the tournament altogether in the final five seasons under former coach Pete Waite.
The Badgers’ biggest win stings deep around here, as it came at the expense of top-seeded Texas in the 2013 national semifinal. Carlini had 50 assists that night.
Last year, she was the Big Ten’s player of the year, edging, ironically, the national player of the year, Penn State’s Micha Hancock. Their teams met up in the regional final, but Carlini suffered a significant ankle injury in the first set. She continued, but was slowed and later went through six months of rehab.
This season, Carlini was beaten out for Big Ten player of the year honors by Minnesota outside hitter Daly Santana, yet she says she has improved from last season.
“This year, I think I have taken it to another level and been able to do what I was taught in club, but also see what’s happening on the other side of the net and make those adjustments on the run, not necessarily wait for the coaching staff to tell me,” Carlini said.
High jumper: Those familiar with Texas’ Chiaka Ogbogu are aware of the middle blocker’s considerable hops. Ogbogu’s vertical jump has been measured at 10 feet, 8 1/2 inches, tops on the team.
Yet Florida’s Rhamat Alhassan does it even better. She goes 11 feet, 3 inches, which is not lost upon Wisconsin middle blocker Haleigh Nelson, who touches just below 10 feet.
“Kudos to her,” Nelson said. “I have a long way to go before I get there.”
Reunion: Former USC teammates Ebony Nwanebu and Lauryn Gillis get to reunite this week. Nwanebu, of Fairview, considered transferring and joining Gillis at Wisconsin before choosing Texas because it was closer to home.
It’s been a tough season for Nwanebu, who played in only one match because of injuries. Incidentally, she beat out Carlini for national freshman of the year in 2013.
Gillis is flourishing in her second act, leading the Badgers with 3.12 kills per set with a respectable .231 hitting percentage.
Nice to see you: UCLA outside hitter Jordan Anderson, of Flower Mound, played alongside Nwanebu and Ogbogu with the club team Texas Advantage.
Anderson began her career in the Big 12 at West Virginia, but says Friday’s matchup against Texas will be different than before.
“I have two years under my belt playing here, and I’ve got a good team supporting me,” Anderson said. “So it’ll be fun seeing the difference between playing Big 12 and Pac-12.