MATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photoWhen Wisconsin volleyball takes on the Wolverines this Saturday, Maria Carlini will be playing with a little more pressure and a lot more incentive.A 6-foot-1 outside hitter from LaSalle, Ontario, Carlini has played a key role in helping the No. 7-ranked Badgers to sole possession of second place in the ultra-competitive Big Ten standings, just a game behind No. 3 powerhouse Penn State.And seeing as she grew up just 45 minutes from Ann Arbor, Carlini would love nothing more than to have her best game of the season against Michigan, the program she had wanted to play for throughout her childhood.”The University of Michigan, since it is so close to home, was my dream school when I was younger,” Carlini said. “But then Coach Rod [Wilde, a Badger assistant] saw me play at a tournament, and he recruited me for Wisconsin.”Carlini said it only took one trip to Madison to see where she really wanted to attend college.”As soon as I came here, I fell in love with it. It’s just a beautiful campus, the atmosphere is so much fun, and the school is so good academically. As soon I came here, I knew this was the school I wanted to go to.”Doubled up: The University of Wisconsin volleyball team can thank Wilde for bringing Carlini here. The junior enters this weekend with a team-high five double-doubles in 2005, and has 13 for her career. Each of the 13 matches has involved double-digit kills and digs.”Coach (Pete) Waite’s main focus is on our defense, so I take a lot in pride in getting double-doubles because it means that I’m helping both offensively and defensively,” Carlini said.Though Carlini does not lead the Badgers in any major individual categories, her double-doubles, in addition to her serving success, has been a testament to her solid play all around the court. She currently ranks second on the team in kills (3.20 per game), digs (3.07), service aces (0.31) and total points on the year (213).What could be more impressive about Carlini’s statistics? Try the fact that she was initially recruited as a middle blocker.”I came to Wisconsin as a middle, so I never really got to play back row,” Carlini said. “After being moved to the outside, I have been working a lot on my defense and on getting more digs.”Life in the UW spotlight: Carlini has enjoyed college athletics immensely since joining the Wisconsin volleyball team. She said that part of the fun is playing in the Big Ten has been one of her favorite parts of the experience.”The Big Ten is the toughest conference for volleyball, so it’s just so much fun, just playing and competing every single weekend,” Carlini said. “It has just been an unbelievable experience and I’m so happy and honored to have the opportunity to play college sports.”One of her best moments came when the volleyball team was honored for winning the InnTowner Invitational at a Badger home football game against — who else? — Michigan.”That was just an unbelievable feeling. Everyone was looking at us, and everyone was clapping and cheering for us,” Carlini said. “It was awesome, especially against Michigan, and to see [Wisconsin] beat them was so much fun.”Captain Carlini: As the only junior in the starting lineup for the Badgers, Carlini is expected to be one of the captains, if not the only one, when Wisconsin hits the court in the fall of 2006.Without senior co-captains Sheila Shaw and Aubrey Meierotto, Carlini said the team has the ability to fill the voids at their positions for next year. “Obviously, losing Sheila and Aubrey, we’re going to need people to step up. Those are huge shoes to fill,” Carlini said. “A lot of the recruits coming in next year are really good, and the freshmen this year are awesome, so it’s going to be so exciting.” Carlini said that as well as the Badgers have played this season, her senior year could prove to be an even better year.”Last year and this year were supposed to be our rebuilding years, and look how well we have done,” she said. “I think that with the experience we’ve gained through this year, we’re just going to be unstoppable next year.”I’m so excited, and so happy that I have one more year with this great group of girls.”Added Incentive: But before stepping into a major leadership role, Carlini’s tall task of the moment will be living up to expectations in front of her cheering section at Michigan.”Last year, I had about 30 or 40 of my friends and family that came to the match, and for them to experience collegiate volleyball was awesome,” Carlini said. “Athletics in Canada is not as big as here, so when we play at Michigan, they get to see what it’s like, because it’s so hard to come all the way to Wisconsin.”Carlini maintained that a loss to the school she used to love would come with an added degree of disappointment for her as a player.”Michigan. That’s definitely the one school I never want to lose to in college.”
Shohei Ohtani with a couple of light tosses for the first time since Tommy John surgery. #LAASpring pic.twitter.com/QcnjwNqlR3— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) March 8, 2019″We’re taking it day to day,” manager Brad Ausmus told reporters before the session (via MLB.com). “Make sure he feels all right. Very light throwing today — short, in terms of distance. In terms of quantity, 60-70 tosses. I’d probably call it tosses, more than throws.”Ohtani won’t pitch until 2020, and obviously has a ways to go before he even takes the mound in a simulated game. But Friday was a positive step for the 24-year-old hurler, who posted a 4-2 mark with a 3.31 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in his first MLB season last year.The Angels are hoping Ohtani can return to the lineup as a designated hitter some time in May. At the plate, Ohtani hit 22 home runs and slashed .285/.361/.564 en route to winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Shohei Ohtani is throwing again.The Angels phenom played catch in spring training Friday, the first time he’s thrown the ball since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October. According to MLB.com, these were “very soft tosses,” 50 throws at distances of 20 to 40 feet and 10 shorter throws cooling down.