Sunday brought excitement for the Wisconsin volleyball team as it was chosen to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament at the UW Field House this weekend. The 13th-ranked Badgers (23-9) compete in the tournament for the first time since 2007. The Field House will host a tournament game between California (17-2) and North Carolina (27-4) on Friday, with the Badgers taking on Milwaukee (18-10) later on that evening.Wisconsin is making its 17th appearance in the NCAA tournament, hosting 13 out of those 17 appearances. They have been seeded among the top 16 teams in the NCAA tournament nine times, ranking their highest in 1997 at fourth.With a strong finish to their regular season, the Badgers tied for fourth in the final Big Ten standings at 12-8, making this their most conference victories since 2007 when they finished 17-3. Additionally, the Badgers finished as the conference leaders in digs per set, averaging 15.8 digs per set in league matches.Wisconsin has also broken nearly every individual and team season record under 25-point rally scoring in 2013. Junior Ellen Chapman set overall and Big Ten-season records for kills and freshman Haleigh Nelson set overall and Big Ten record for total blocks. Freshman Lauren Carlini was named Big Ten Freshman of the year and also earned All-Big Ten honors this past Tuesday.First-year head coach Kelly Sheffield has become one of the most successful first-year head coaches for Badger volleyball. When asked about his overall 2013 experience with the team, he described it as a dream come true.“I am a really lucky coach to be able to work at a place like this university,” Sheffield said. “It’s been a real awesome experience and I feel very fortunate.”Senior libero Annemarie Hickey gets another chance to play on her home turf this weekend and an opportunity to show how far she has led the team this year.“This is my first time making it in all my four years. I’m actually just really motivated. We know as a team that we can go far and do big things. And you know, we are getting a lot of things from the media and other teams saying we’re not going to go far, but we have no doubt in our minds that we can do this and we can beat a lot of these teams. We’re just really going out there with a lot of motivation and it’s really awesome.”Everyone is getting excited for the post-season play, and Sheffield and the players alike are expecting a great turnout this weekend.“The one thing I keep hearing from everybody is if you get to postseason then everyone shows up, that’s one thing Badger fans do,” Sheffield said. “They support their teams well. I’m stoked about that. You host, this place will be packed. I believe in that. You know our team feeds off good energy. We’re hoping we have unbelievable energy this weekend.”While this may be the Badgers first appearance in six seasons, this is not Sheffield’s first go-round with the NCAA tournament. Including 2013, Sheffield has led his teams to nine NCAA tournaments, including the last eight years in a row where he led Dayton to five-straight postseason appearances and Albany to three.With so many dreams coming true for this tight-knit team, the Badgers seem ready to chase further team goals. While making it to the tournament itself was quite the accomplishment, the Badgers don’t seem engendered toward complacency. They want to keep moving forward and focus on one opponent at a time.Carlini hopes to leave it all on the court.“We don’t have anything to lose. This is the first time we have been in the tournament since 2007, so let’s prove everyone wrong. No one thinks we can make it far in the tournament, and everyone doubts us. I think we are using that as fuel and we hope to show everyone that we can do this.”Hickey is proud and excited to have led her team this far and will stop at nothing to battle through and put up a good fight. “Bring it,” is her message to the team as they step on the court this weekend.“We need to bring it hard to each team and be confident that we are going to win.”
Ellis’ primary value might lie in his strongly forged relationships with the Dodgers’ pitching staff, particularly ace Clayton Kershaw. Ellis caught 21 of Kershaw’s 33 starts in 2015.Coaching decisionsTurner Ward and Bob Geren will join the Dodgers as hitting coach and bench coach, respectively, according to multiple reports.Geren, the New York Mets’ bench coach, interviewed for the manager’s job that ultimately went to Dave Roberts. He managed the Oakland A’s from 2007-11.Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Tuesday he and Roberts preferred a bench coach with extensive experience — “ideally” as a manager, too.Geren, 54, was the A’s bench coach for one season before replacing Ken Macha as the manager. Oakland went 334-376 under Geren, missing the postseason in each of his four full seasons.Ward, 50, was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ hitting coach the past three seasons. He was reportedly offered a contract for 2016 but opted not to return.Ward was a minor-league manager in the Diamondbacks’ organization for two seasons before he was named hitting coach. In his third month on the job, Ward was ejected from a game at Dodger Stadium on June 12, 2013, for his role in a benches-clearing brawl.A switch-hitting outfielder, Ward played for six teams in a 12-year career (1990-2001).AlsoThe San Diego Padres officially named Mark McGwire their bench coach. McGwire, the Dodgers’ hitting coach since 2013, told reporters he was contacted by the Diamondbacks as well. … FoxSports.com reported Gabe Kapler will join Roberts’ coaching staff in an unspecified capacity. Kapler, the Dodgers’ director of player development, was the runner-up to Roberts for the manager’s job. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error The Dodgers re-signed catcher A.J. Ellis to a one-year contract worth $4.5 million Wednesday, avoiding arbitration.Ellis earned $4.25 million in 2015, his fourth full major-league season. He hit for a .238 average — .277 from June 1 onward — with seven home runs in 63 games as the backup catcher to Yasmani Grandal.Behind the plate, Ellis threw out a league-leading 45 percent of attempted base stealers and improved his pitch framing.Six arbitration-eligible players remain on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster: Luis Avilan, Grandal, Chris Hatcher, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke. Pitchers Juan Nicasio and Lisalverto Bonilla were not tendered contracts, making both free agents. Nicasio appeared in 53 regular-season games but was left off the Dodgers’ playoff roster.Bonilla was claimed off waivers after the season and never pitched for the Dodgers, who have 37 players on their 40-man roster. Ellis is the longest-tenured Dodger. Drafted in the 18th round in 2003 out of Austin Peay University, he reached the majors in 2008 and became a full-time starter in 2012.This was the final year of arbitration eligibility for Ellis, who will turn 35 in April. Between his age and his impending free-agent status, 2016 might well be Ellis’ last season with the Dodgers. Catcher Austin Barnes was acquired in the trade that sent Dee Gordon to the Miami Marlins last December, and the 25-year-old prospect put up strong numbers at Triple-A Oklahoma City.Ellis finished the season strong, too. He hit seven home runs and seven doubles in his final 158 plate appearances, amassing a .492 slugging percentage. To put that in perspective, Kris Bryant, Andrew McCutchen and Albert Pujols all had lower slugging percentages in 2015, albeit in much larger sample sizes.