Molly Haggerty is back.
After sitting out all of 2017 with a back injury, the redshirt sophomore has spent the early part of No. 6 Wisconsin volleyball’s season trying to reintegrate herself into the flow of the team.
On Sunday, fresh off of Wisconsin’s disappointing 3–1 loss to Baylor, Haggerty had one of her best matches of the season, nabbing five aces and nine kills as UW swept North Texas 3–0 in Denton, Texas.
Through six matches, Haggerty is fourth on the team with 2.64 kills per set. More importantly, though, she looks recovered from what could have been a career-threatening injury. For the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and 2016 AVCA Third-Team All-American, just getting back on the court was a challenge.
KPS on @haggerty_molly Kind of a tough match on Friday but really bounced back on Sunday. Her service at NTU was incredible. She is our “North Star” as far as our team’s swagger. She’s willing to get in there and mix it up.
— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) September 10, 2018
“You know, backs are really hard,” coach Kelly Sheffield told B5Q over the summer. “You see some of these players—take an Andrew Luck—that had surgery and then came back and then they pulled them off again. And you’re sitting there going, ‘Man, what happened?’ And that’s the same thing that happened with Molly.
“She had surgery, came back, didn’t play matches but was building her way up there. And then there were some functional movements that were causing her to have weaknesses in other parts of her body. So we had to get some biomechanical people who study that to address some of those things. And so, how that was playing out a little bit was that she wasn’t able to have as much pop on her swings as what she’s had in the past.
For Haggerty, last season was the hardest of her playing career.
“When I first decided to redshirt, I didn’t know about it right away. I don’t know, I thought it would be super hard having to do it. But looking back, I am so happy that I redshirted. It’s given me the opportunity to play three more years here when I’m healthy. But it was super, super hard not being with my teammates out on the court and not getting to do my favorite thing in the world. Not having that was super hard for me. I have never had an experience like this, something take me away from the sport I love so much. Stepping back and looking at my life without volleyball was really eye-opening. But I would say it was really difficult.”
Things were looking up this summer. Both Sheffield and Haggerty were cautiously optimistic.
“I’d say that [in early July], she started feeling a real, real big difference in her ability to get up there and just crank,” Sheffield said. “She felt like, you know, for the first time, that everything felt like back-to-normal Molly.” Sheffield said.
After showing some rust in the opening weekend against North Carolina and Florida State, Haggerty has shown consistent improvement in the young season. She netted 16 kills and three blocks in Wisconsin’s upset over then-No. 2 Texas and followed that up with 10 kills the next night against High Point.
For her teammates, having Haggerty back in the fold is huge boost.
“She’s very competitive on the court, obviously,” senior middle blocker Tionna Williams said. “A lot of people are aware of that, but she is somebody who also inspires you to be better because she… it’s hard to explain. When you are just playing next to her, you want to be better for her.”
“And you know that she always has your back and she has worked so hard over the past few years to come back from her injury, which is always really inspiring because it is super easy to just give up and be like super down on yourself and just pretty much give up. But she has been working really hard in rehab and training really hard and definitely playing, and I can’t wait to have her back on the court.”
Sophomore Dana Rettke agrees.
“Molly is as a big a competitor as I have ever played with and I absolutely love it. She just wants everything for this team. She wants to win so bad. She is always there for all of us, even when she was injured last year. I know that was really, really hard on her. But her spirits were always really high and she was always a great teammate.
“I am so excited for [reintegrating Haggerty with the team]. I am so excited for what she brings. I think she’s going to come back and do her thing. We are really excited to have her back.”
“There are a lot of things that I am looking forward to, but the one thing that I am really, really excited about is just being able to play with my teammates in front of our crowd.” Haggerty said. “That competing aspect, I mean it’s different. Last year, I got to compete in practice, but it’s a completely different animal being out in front of how many people that the Field House can hold now with the upper deck.
“I am just so excited to able to finally get out there and start doing what I love again.”