The final chapter of the 2002 UW volleyball season came to a close as the USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Coaches Poll released the final 2002 rankings, placing the Badgers as the No. 18 team in the nation. The 2002 NCAA champion USC finished No. 1 after winning the NCAA tournament in December.
UW ended the season with a 24-9 overall record and a 14-6 Big Ten record, with a second-place finish in the conference. This is the sixth consecutive year the program has ended the year ranked in the top 25.
“I think [being ranked] is a real honor; it is definitely not an easy thing to do,” head coach Pete Waite said. “Sometimes as you claw your way to the top it is much easier on your way up than it is maintaining that level.”
The Badgers were one of five Big Ten teams that ended the season being ranked. Big Ten champion Minnesota finished No. 11, Ohio State ended the year No. 13, Penn State finished No. 16 and Michigan State rounded out the list at No. 22.
In addition to the UW team earning accolades, two UW players were also on the receiving end of prestigious honors. Senior outside hitter Erin Byrd was named second team All-American and junior setter Morgan Shields was named third team All- American.
“I think it was a great honor for both of them,” Waite said. “It is great they have earned the respect of coaches from across the country, both in what they have earned statistically and what they have meant to our program.”
Twelve players make up each team with this being the first year the AVCA has introduced a third team All-American award.
Byrd, a unanimous all-Big Ten selection, finished the year averaging 4.34 kills and 2.97 digs per game. She was named Big Ten player of the week for the week of Oct. 21 and was named to the all-tournament team in each of the team’s four invitationals this season. This being her last season at UW, Byrd leaves the program second in UW history in digs with 1,397, sixth in kills with 1,270, and eighth in service aces with 120.
Shields ended the year ranked among the top four players in the nation in assists per game with 13.91. In addition to being named all-Big Ten, she was also named Big Ten player of the week twice this season for the weeks of Sept. 9 and Nov. 18. Also making her mark in the UW record book, Shields set the UW Big Ten season record for assists with 1,062.
Four other Big Ten players were named to the All-American teams, but most impressive was sophomore outside hitter Stacey Gordon, who was named first team All-American in only her second year of collegiate play. Joining Byrd on the second team was Cassie Busse, a middle blocker from Minnesota, and Cara Smith, an outside hitter from Penn State. Freshman libero Paula Gentil from Minnesota joined Shields at third team All-American.