Nov. 25, 2011
• Gameday Live
MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin volleyball team wraps up the regular season tonight with an important matchup against No. 8 Purdue at 7 p.m. in the UW Field House.
A win tonight against the Boilermakers would not only give the Badgers a chance to get into the NCAA Tournament, but it would help send their seniors off on a high note.
Co-captains Janelle Gabrielsen and Elle Ohlander play their final matches at the Field House tonight, and will be honored during a senior night ceremony before the match.
Despite what's at stake tonight, both seniors say they have been focusing on the match itself more than the fact that it's their last one in front of their home crowd.
"I think it's something that we don't really want to think about," Ohlander said. "Playing in the Field House has been such a major part of my life for the past four years that it is weird to think of myself doing anything else."
Gabrielsen added, "These last four years have gone by so fast and it will be hard to finally move on. I have had a lot of fun (here) and will miss it a lot."
No matter what happens tonight, the seniors have certainly made their mark in the Wisconsin Volleyball program during their four seasons here.
Gabrielsen has recorded a program-best three triple-doubles during her time as a Badger, two of which happened earlier this season. She is also on three different all-time career lists for Wisconsin, including total assists (sixth, 3,410), assists per set (seventh, 7.65) and total digs (tied for seventh, 1,107). Gabrielsen became only the second player in program history to record 3,000 assists and 1,000 digs in her career behind current assistant coach Colleen (Neels) Bayer.
The Menomonee Falls, Wis., native has earned three all-tournament honors in her career, including a spot on the 2011 Duke Invitational All-Tournament team, and was awarded Wisconsin's 2010 Big Ten Sportsmanship award.
Ohlander also received an all-tournament honor this season, earning a spot on the N.C. State Invitational team. She saw action in nearly 100 matches during her career, starting in 66 of them at middle blocker.
Both seniors are three-time Academic All-Big Ten honorees as well. They were also honored with spots on the 2008 Big Ten All-Freshman Team after being named starters for most of their rookie seasons.
The co-captains say they have enjoyed guiding their teammates throughout the season, coming up with some big wins including what is now one of their favorite memories in beating defending NCAA champion Penn State this season.
"The feeling was indescribable and something I will remember for the rest of my life," Ohlander said.
Gabrielsen agreed, "We played together as a team (in the match) and had fun doing it."
Despite their impressive list of accomplishments, Ohlander says they're not done just yet.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet that this is the end of (Janelle's) and my career as Badgers, but we don't think this game on Friday will not be our last," she said. "We are going to play our hearts out and hopefully start our journey in the NCAA tournament shortly after."
The duo will have to guide their team one last time at home past a tough opponent in No. 8 Purdue to be considered for that tournament, though. The Boilermakers beat in-state rival Indiana in four sets on Wednesday night, improving to a tie for second in the Big Ten at 15-4 (26-4 overall). The Badgers will have to get past Purdue's Ariel Turner, the conference's leader in kills per set, and the Boilermaker's Big Ten leading 2.79 blocks per set.
While both seniors agree that they will miss being with their teammates on a daily basis the most, they say they couldn't have asked for a better way to end their careers as Badgers.
"This season, along with the rest of my four years here, has definitely been unforgettable," Ohlander said.
"This has been a fun season and one of my best seasons as a Badger," added Gabrielsen. "I have had a great experience at Wisconsin and would not trade it for anything else in the world."