When the UW volleyball team absolutely crushes opponents by scores of 30-10 and 30-17, it is hard to tell which part of the team’s game stands out the most.
However, without the play of middle blockers Lauren Ford and Amy Hultgren, the domination this weekend may not have been possible.
Both opened the Badger Invitational with phenomenal play Friday night against Bowling Green.
Hultgren, a senior, contributed 10 kills and four blocks in the match and seemed to slam down a kill almost at will.
The real story of the night, however, belonged to Ford, a true freshman. Ford led the team with 14 kills in only 16 attempts, resulting in a hitting percentage of .875.
This performance by Ford was good enough to set a new UW record for hitting percentage in a three-game match. The previous record holder was Sherisa Livingston, a First Team All-American for the Badgers in 2000 and 2001. The old record, set against Ball State in Sept. 2000, was .842.
When asked about her performance, Ford shyly replied that she hadn’t even really noticed during the game, which is not unusual for Ford, as her only goal seems to be to contribute to the team’s overall success.
After watching Ford break an All-American’s record while starting in only her first home match of her career, it is hard not to get excited about how talented she is and how talented she should become.
Every time she went up for a kill, it was easy to sense the excitement of the crowd—not to mention the abnormally loud cheers that arose from the crowd every time she put down one of her 14 powerful kills.
“I was just trying to get up every time Morgan got the ball so she could set me,” Ford said. “I felt like I had a good connection with the ball and my timing was right.”
In the Badgers’ second match of the tournament, against Tulane, Ford and Hultgren continued to shine.
Ford contributed seven kills, three blocks and three defensive digs to the team’s 30-23, 30-22 and 30-17 wins.
Hultgren continued to be a major force on at the net by slamming down 10 kills, second on the team only to Lisa Zukowski’s 14 kills. She also came through with one service ace, one assist, two defensive digs and two blocks.
“[Amy] and Morgan were connecting well,” head coach Pete Waite said. “That’s what we need going into Big Tens, is to get Hultgren more of an offensive threat.”
In the Badger’s third and final match of the game, the talented twosome was at it again, altering numerous balls, scoring points and providing the team with a strong presence up at the net.
Ford and senior Erin Byrd were the only Badgers to record service aces against Illinois-Chicago. In addition to her solid serving, Ford tallied nine kills and two blocks.
Her partner in crime, Hultgren, added eight kills and five blocks, as the team was able to finish off UIC in three games 30-20, 30-22 and 30-20 to win their own Badger Invitational.
“I think they (Ford and Hultgren) did really well,” Waite said. “They were leading us in kills, and they were slowing down the opponent a lot with their blocking.”
Not only was Waite impressed with Hultgren’s performance; so were the coaches from Bowling Green, Tulane and Illinois-Chicago. Hultgren, along with teammates Byrd and Zukowski, were named to the All-Tournament team.
This was the second such honor for Hultgren as she was also named to the Carolina Classic All-Tournament team earlier in the season.
“Obviously, it is a nice honor to win something like that in front of our own fans,” Hultgren said.
“I just felt like Morgan and I connect better every day in practice, and it carries over to the game.”