Graduate student right side hitter is one of a kind and there’s a stat to prove it

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Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Taylor Wolf (10) sets up a pass in Marquette’s 1-3 loss to Creighton Oct. 29 at the Al McGuire Center.

Graduate student right side hitter Taylor Wolf’s ability to set and hit the ball makes her one of the more unique players in all of college volleyball.

Currently, Wolf is the only player in the entire country averaging over 2.5 digs per set, over 2.5 kills per set and over five assists per set.

The only one.

While it may be unique, it’s not surprising to redshirt junior Claire Mosher.

“Those statistics honestly don’t surprise me because she’s an amazing person on and off the court,” Mosher said.

Wolf said she first realized how special her skill set was when she transferred to Marquette last year after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“I knew that a lot of players in the BIG EAST league don’t hit and set,” Wolf said. “So I know that’s something that’s unique about me and my versatility.”

Head coach Ryan Theis said Wolf’s versatility not only helps her but also her teammates, “it allows us to do some other things with other players to get them in positions of strength.”

Redshirt junior Katie Schoessow said Wolf’s play and ability to do a lot of things on the court has been getting better throughout the season.

“She’s getting better every day, every game, she’s challenging herself to hit different shots, challenging your (opponents’) block,” Schoessow said. “She’s doing more than most players ever have to do and I think that’s something that makes it really special.”

On the season, Wolf is tied for first the country in triple-doubles, with six. In those triple-doubles she is averaging 3.04 kills per set, 3.7 digs per set and 5.92 assists per set.

Meanwhile, through Marquette’s 23 games this season Wolf is averaging 2.88 kills per set, 2.63 digs per set and 5.38 assists per set.

Being able to have numbers like this means Wolf has to be skilled in three of the most important aspects of the game; hitting, passing and setting.

Wolf said this can be overwhelming at times, but her coaches help her separate the skills so she can focus on each of them individually.

“The coaches do a really good job of kind of picking focuses for me. So some practices are more setter-oriented and just working on those skills where others are kind of hitting focus,” Wolf said. “Breaking that up throughout the week so that I can feel prepared for the weekend matches is what is crucial to me.”

When it comes to setting Wolf didn’t set in her time with the Phoenix, but did in high school.

The 2020-21 All-BIG EAST First Team Honoree said the ability to hit and set interested her when Theis was recruiting her to come join the program.

“I always kind of missed the role of setting and when Ryan (Theis) said they needed a setter as well as a hitter that was very interesting and intriguing to me,” Wolf said. “I felt like I could always use my versatility more to help the team win.”

Theis said the transition to playing setter at the collegiate level brought some hiccups in the beginning for Wolf, but she has come a long way.

“I think there was some growing pains last year with her setting,” Theis said. “There would be days where it was noticeable that she was struggling to put the ball in good locations for her hitters, and that now has become pretty rare.”

Through 23 games, Wolf currently leads Marquette in kills with 233 on the year, with most coming from the right side.

Theis said having a setter like Mosher has been beneficial to Wolf with opponents keying on her defensively.

“Teams definitely key on her (Wolf), but her teammates have been extremely efficient in other positions making it tough for teams to just say, hey stop Taylor,” Theis said. “So, between Claire and our other attackers it’s a bit of a team effort.”

Even with her name near or at the top of opponents’ scouting reports, Wolf’s growth in confidence from playing in the spring to now has been important to her success.

“In the spring when I was learning to kind of manage both roles (hitting and setting) I think at times I would be more confident in one of the positions,” Wolf said. “I think I have developed that confidence a little bit more in both.”

Schoessow said Wolf’s growth in confidence is not the only thing that’s contributing to her success.

“Something that’s really important is her leadership on and off the court, she’s always bringing positive energy,” Schoessow said. “That’s what’s really making her a better player.”

When it comes to the defensive side of the game, Wolf has the second most digs on the team with 213.

Schoessow said she has seen a change in how Wolf plays defensively since she first arrived to Marquette.

“She definitely has gotten way more aggressive, regardless of the outcome,” Schoessow said.

With the Golden Eagles emphasising on improving their defense all season, Wolf is an integral part of it.

“We are focusing on defense a lot. It’s something our team has really been trying to improve,” Wolf said. “I think just getting my feet set early, being ready for the ball to come and expecting it to be there is something that I’m working on.”

Wolf has earned BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week honors three times so far this season, with the most one Oct.11

Theis said what Wolf is doing on the court is impressive, but the more impressive part is that she’s doing it while taking high level classes for her physical therapy degree.

“She also misses some practice time because of her classes and her hours required and things like that. So it’s just really impressive,” Theis said. “She’s an incredibly bright individual who’s really good at volleyball.”

With the 2021 season being Wolf’s fifth and final season, Mosher said she is happy that she can play alongside Wolf and see her wanting to go out with a bang.

“She’s having an amazing season. She’s definitely going out with a bang in her last season and I’m so happy that she joined us from Green Bay,” Mosher said.

This article was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at benjamin.a.schultz@marquette.edu or on Twitter @benschultz52.