Where to even begin in trying to put together a notebook and summary of this weekend’s Horizon League Volleyball Tournament in Cleveland? The Panthers completed a stunning turnaround by winning three matches this weekend to claim the league title and return to the NCAA Tournament.
First, it probably should be noted one more time that the fact UWM got to this weekend - and into the third seed no less - did seem light-years away after the five-match losing streak that was early October. But, in some ways, that accomplishment might pale in comparison to how well the Panthers played the last two days when it really mattered. Not only did UWM beat both Valpo and Cleveland State, but it had some immensely dominating stretches.
This means UWM has now won either the league regular season or tournament title for 13-straight years. That is an amazing run of supremacy. Milwaukee is also in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time. The Panthers will undoubtedly get a difficult first-round foe – UWM will have one of the lowest RPI’s in the field this year – but not only get more practice time but a chance to test how far they have come against one of the best teams in the nation.
Some other notes and thoughts on the way to Texas for two men’s basketball games in the NIT …
- UWM is now 23-8 all-time in the Horizon League Tournament. The Panthers' sixth title is the most in league history, breaking a tie with Loyola (five titles).
- Lauren Felsing was named the tournament’s most valuable player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Maddie Sueppel and Natalie Schmitting.
- Felsing now has 1,905 career digs – the only Panther to ever go over 1,900. She also finishes off her matchups with league opponents having reached double figures in digs in 55-straight contests against the league.
- She also has 548 digs this season, second on UWM's single-season list to the 645 she tallied last season.
- Lauren Hintze had a collegiate-best 20 digs in today’s match. Once again, UWM put five players in double digits for digs. Morgan Potter was in double figures in digs twice on the weekend – including against CSU - joining regulars Kellye Zaporski, Jena Berg, Hintze and Felsing Sunday.
- How good was UWM’s defense on the weekend – particularly Saturday and Sunday – and just how important was it? Milwaukee’s opponents tallied 10 more kills than the Panthers did in the three matches, but UWM had 10 more blocks and 18 more digs. The Panthers forced 61 hitting errors Saturday and Sunday.
- Natalie Schmitting was a huge part of that defense at the net. The junior now has 376 total blocks, putting her fifth on UWM's all-time list and within 43 of the top spot in school history.
- Zaporski now has 2,313 career assists, up to fourth on UWM's all-time list.
- UWM has now beaten Cleveland State 31 of the last 34 meetings between the two teams, including in the last two league title matches. A Valpo upset of Milwaukee two seasons ago at the Klotsche Center is the only thing that kept today’s match from marking the third-straight year of a UWM/CSU final.