Everything was going as scripted for Wisconsin volleyball senior outside hitter Bailey Reshel. She was beginning her senior season as the starting outside hitter for a young Badger squad looking to make its mark on the Big Ten season.
But, just as quickly as her season had started, things turned for the worse when Reshel found herself not only removed from her starting spot, but unable to read for school or attend practice.
It was Sept. 1 and Wisconsin was playing Long Beach State in the Long Beach State Invitational. The Badgers won the match 3-1 and Reshel led the team with 15 kills while hitting an astonishing .353, seeming poised to become one of the key contributors on the team for the 2012 season. But then, the Badgers traveled to Georgia for the Georgia Southern Invitational.
And that’s where the troubles started.
The team won the tournament, but Reshel wasn’t there in the gym. Experiencing concussion symptoms after being hit in the head the week before in practice, the senior was confined to the hotel room and couldn’t do much of anything, something she said was extremely difficult.
“When you break a bone you can still do your schoolwork and be part of practice; I couldn’t do that,” Reshel said. “I was told to not watch TV, not read, I couldn’t come to practice, I couldn’t do anything. That was really hard because I was falling behind in volleyball and in school.”
Reshel missed six matches from Sept. 14-23 from the initial head injury and then missed two additional matches on Oct. 12-13 when she re-injured her head. Reshel finally was able to return to action the following weeks, but found herself confined to the bench rather than starting.
“The fact that I had a starting spot and then it was completely [gone] and then it took eight matches to get it back, that was the most frustrating part,” Reshel said. “Getting back in shape I think was the hardest thing. You would see in practice I would get so tired, so that was the biggest challenge.”
Despite being limited to bench duties, Wisconsin coach Pete Waite called upon Reshel frequently off the bench to provide a spark for the team. If the Badgers would get off to a slow start, it was a common occurrence to see Waite look down the bench and soon after to see Reshel on the floor.
Being a senior, Waite said it was a no-brainer that Reshel was his first option.
“I trust her,” Waite said. “I trust that she’s going to come in and raise our level of play on the court. Obviously that chunk of time when she had the concussion, we were missing that. Whether she started for us or came off the bench, she had something in her experience, the years she’s been with the program, and her positive attitude on the court.”
Despite coming off the bench for most of the season since then, Reshel ranks fifth on the team in kills per set with 2.17. Her hitting percentage of .236 this season also ranks fourth on the team and she also contributes to the Badgers defensively, ranking fifth on the team with 0.51 blocks per set as well as averaging 0.76 digs per set.
Reshel is one of just three Wisconsin seniors on this year’s team and although fellow seniors Mary Ording and Alexis Mitchell have been fixtures in the starting lineup for the Badgers this season, Mitchell said Reshel’s ability to perform off the bench has been crucial.
“Bailey pays a lot of attention while she’s on the sidelines and watching,” Mitchell said. “So as soon as she comes into a match she’s ready to play and knows what to do. She’s very confident when she comes out onto the court and very calm, and just ready to play.”
As everything came full circle, Reshel found herself in the starting lineup once again this past Sunday on national television against third ranked Penn State. The game was televised on ESPN2, but the nerves of playing on such a big stage weren’t an issue for Reshel. She led the Badgers with 11 kills in the match on 19 attempts, while not committing a hitting error. Despite the loss, Reshel said the match was rewarding for her.
“I felt relaxed,” Reshel said. “It’s been my mentality for the past two years, to go play and have fun. After missing eight games, I had absolutely nothing to lose. I just went out and played with no pressure and it worked.”
“She was just so comfortable on the court,” Waite said. “She wasn’t forcing anything. She just hit her natural shots and was swinging away. When a player does that, great things happen, and I was really happy for her in that match.”