Wisconsin graduate Tiffany Clark joins Athletes Unlimited inaugural volleyball season

NOW: Wisconsin graduate Tiffany Clark joins Athletes Unlimited inaugural volleyball season

DALLAS, TX (CBS-58) -- The last time former Wisconsin Badgers Libero Tiffany Clark stepped on a volleyball court, it was in a loss to Stanford in the national title game in 2019. This month, she is making her return to the court in a new professional league.

“I knew I wanted to play professionally,” said Tiffany Clark, who graduated from Wisconsin in May 2020. “But I had no idea I would be in America, playing on American soil.”

After the 2019 season with the Badgers, Clark had surgery to repair a torn hip labrum. Now recovered, she is getting her chance to make that professional debut. Clark is one of 44 players playing in the first Athletes Unlimited volleyball season.

“I’m playing with Olympians, I’m playing with rookies, it’s just such a cool mix of people,” said Clark.

Athletes Unlimited is a player-focused league created last year with its inaugural softball season. The league has added women’s volleyball and lacrosse to make their debuts this year. The advisory board features names like NBA star Kevin Durant, soccer Olympian Abby Wambach and volleyball Olympian Jordan Larson.

The AU model has a unique point system. Volleyball matches are won based on total points scored by one team in a three-set match. In those matches, players earn points for aces, kills, assists, passes, digs and blocks, but lose points for errors. The four players with the most points each week become captains who are selecting a new team every week.

“It adds another level to this game that I’ve been playing since I was ten years old,” said Clark.

Clark and her teammates will spend six weeks in Dallas, TX being tested for COVID-19 twice a week as well as daily health checks every day. She says everyone in the bubble is focused on making this season a success for future generations.

“We’ve been saying this over and over again that we want to really want to start this off strong. That’s why we’re adhering to the COVID protocols so much, because we can’t mess this up. This is our opportunity to start this revolutionary league on American soil and I think that would really change the game for generations growing up in the volleyball community,” said Clark.

“For these little girls in volleyball to look up to someone who’s playing professionally right here in Dallas and be like why, I want to be like her.”

This will be the first American-based volleyball league since the 1980s. Fifteen matches will air on FS1 or FS2, seven on CBS Sports Network and eight streamed on digital platforms like YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook and Daily Motion.

Practices are underway for the women in Dallas and scrimmages begin on February 19th. The five weeks of matches begin on February 27th. Clark his glad to be preparing for her first game in more than 400 days.

“Just having the opportunity to compete,” said Clark. “I think that time off has really forced me perspective to just find more joy in the game and I’m thankful for that and I’m thankful to be her with AU.”

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