Hickey comfortable as lone leader

first_imgShe’s been ready for this role her whole life and, now that it’s here, she’s got it all to herself.Senior captain Annemarie Hickey will have the heavy undertaking of leading the Wisconsin volleyball team as the only active senior in the lineup.Hickey has been the Big Ten’s leader in digs the past two seasons but she has never reached the NCAA tournament, won a conference title or even finished in the top half of the league.The 5-foot 8-inch libero isn’t trying to be too sentimental about her last year as a Badger, but she knows she is the go-to leader on the squad.“I don’t want to leave with any regrets,” Hickey said. “I want to make this the best year I can make it, not just for myself, but for my teammates too. Just being in the role of, ‘I’m the only one, I need to be that leader, be that person that helps the team grow.’”Hickey has had plenty of experience leading teams in the past. In high school, she helped lead her team to two Illinois 3A state championships during her junior and senior seasons, during which the team lost a total of just four matches.Even as a sophomore at Wisconsin, she tried to become one of the team’s role models. Hickey said she never thought of age as a factor when trying to become a team leader — she only thought about how she could bring her best qualities to the team.“I’ve kind of been in this role my whole entire life,” Hickey said. “I’ve just been a really big competitor, and I’ve always wanted to win.”That will to win has been evident during team practices. Head coach Kelly Sheffield said Hickey has been a vocal leader who’s unabashed about speaking her mind on the court.“She’s mouthy,” Sheffield said. “She’s shutting people down, just housing people on the slides. She’s barking at them, yelling at them, trash talking — her mouth is leading the way.”Hickey took it upon herself to let her teammates know if they were doing something wrong even in her sophomore year. Junior Ellen Chapman recalls Hickey shouting “hit the floor” after she expected Chapman to dive for live balls.Even though Hickey could be overtly straightforward, Chapman said everything that Hickey does is for the good of the team.“Everyone does respect her,” Chapman said. “We know that when she says stuff like that, she’s not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings or get mad — we know she’s not mad, she’s just trying to make the team better.”Not only is Hickey eager for her teammates to improve, but she is ruthless about refining her own skills. Sheffield said the number one way she leads the team is with her play and her consistency. He said Hickey brings a contagious enthusiasm to the gym and even spends a great amount of time practicing away from the team.Sheffield said even though she has a lot to say, Hickey puts her money where her mouth is with her work ethic.“She’s kind of been a standard,” Sheffield said. “If you’re not even in her league, then you probably can’t say you’re working that hard.”Hickey had to put her hard work and leadership to the test this past weekend at the North Dakota State University Classic. Down two games to zero against Northern Iowa, Wisconsin looked to its senior leader for guidance. Hickey told the team if they wanted the chance to win, they needed to believe it could happen.With no break in between the second and third game, the Badgers were able to gain momentum, and with the help of 13 kills, 15 digs and two service aces from the senior captain, Wisconsin won the next three sets to complete the first 0-2 comeback in nearly 10 years.Even when the Badgers had little room for error, the senior captain provided the inspiration for a once-in-a-decade comeback.“I think a lot of my teammates look to me to be that voice of the team,” Hickey said. “[I was trying] to bring them together, to bring them up and always be positive.”Wisconsin’s three wins over the weekend, including the victory over Northern Iowa and a win over No. 17 Louisville, boosted the Badgers to a top-25 ranking for the first time since 2008.As the lone senior, this is Hickey’s last opportunity to succeed in collegiate volleyball. But, according to Chapman, this is the best volleyball at Wisconsin she has seen in her three years on the team.“Just as a team, we’re so much more together,” Chapman said. “Our whole mindset, just in practice, is get things done, get one percent better every single day. I think that’s just going to get better through the year. This is just the beginning, and we have so much farther to go than where we are now.”last_img