If you don’t know much about University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Women’s Volleyball team, you should. A dominate team in the Horizon League, the Lady Panthers are halfway through their season with an outstanding 9-0 start.
To recap the last couple of seasons, during the fall of 2011 the Panthers went 16-0 in conference ending the season by winning the Horizon League tournament and taking a trip to Ames, Iowa to play a top ranked Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Division 1 Tournament. The Panthers played an outstanding game giving the Cyclones a run for the money but just falling short and losing in three.
Although losing Morgan Potter, a staple defensive player, and Kerri Schuh, one of the best right side hitters Milwaukee volleyball has ever seen, the Panthers didn’t waste any time and were ready to get back in the gym for the fall of 2012 season.
Unfortunately, the 2012 season did not go as expected, with a great deal of injuries, including star setter Kayla Price out the entire season with a hand injury, the Milwaukee volleyball team struggled and did not make it to the Horizon League tournament for a chance for a trip back to the NCAA tournament.
Seen in every sport at every level, from high school to professional, injuries are one of the most challenging things to deal with. Now in the fall of 2013, the Women’s Volleyball team are back on top. Finishing out the first half of the conference this past weekend the Panthers cruised through and are standing in first place with a 9-0 conference record.
Some people might not be too familiar with the coaching staff. This coaching staff may top most coaching staffs in all of NCAA volleyball, consisting of three women who devote their careers to making this program the dynasty it has become.
Nikki Klingsporn is on her second season as the assistant coach for the Panthers. Nikki came from just down the interstate where she was the volunteer assistant coach at Marquette after playing for MU and receiving All-American honorable mention and two-time All-Big East honoree as a setter. A Minnesota native, both Klingsporn’s parents are standout coaches back home.
Lindsey (Spoden) Vanden Berg, also a Minnesota native, is in her seventh season as the top assistant coach for the Panthers. Lindsey was a setter for UWM and was the first-ever UW-Milwaukee player to earn All-American Honors. She also earned herself four All-Horizon League honorees and she lead the Panthers to three NCAA tournament appearances in her career at Milwaukee.
Head coach Susie Johnson is truly one of a kind, and with the help of her standout coaching staff she has built the program to be one of the best. Susie was All-Big Sky as a setter for Idaho State in her playing days. Susie has done nothing but bring success to the Milwaukee volleyball team as a head coach, with 119 wins in six years, nine NCAA tournament appearances, thirteen 20 win seasons, 12 regular season league titles and 4 Horizon League coach of the year honors. And t he 196-44 coach isn’t anywhere near being done with the success of this program.
There is no guarantee that Coach Johnson will remain the head women’s volleyball coach at UWM forever, but for as long as she is here she is going to win, help mold young women into adults, and be a champion for keeping success and career in perspective for her athletes.
The women’s volleyball team is home this weekend Friday night the undefeated Panthers take on Valparaiso at 7 and then Saturday at 4 they battle the Flames of University of Illinois-Chicago. The Lady Panthers are focused and ready to keep the win streak going.