With just four matches remaining in the 2010 regular season and the Wisconsin volleyball team’s playoff chances on life support, the time to look forward to next season begins.Fortunately for the Badgers, no position looks brighter for the future of the team than the middle blockers.Sophomore Alexis Mitchell has made a splash in her second year as a starter and has cemented herself as a staple in the starting lineup, but the other middle position could be up for grabs.Freshman Dominique Thompson seems to be the logical choice to step up, but head coach Pete Waite is excited by the possibility of not just Thompson, but also of the prospect of junior Elle Ohlander, junior Kristy Bourquin and redshirt sophomore Kelsey Maloney all competing for playing time.“That’s the great part, they will battle to improve their games to be the one on the court and to be the most reliable one out there,” Waite said.Thompson has started 17 of the team’s 24 matches and ranks fifth on the team in kills. She has also worked hard to improve her blocking, an apparent weakness entering college.“I think that my blocking has gotten a lot better this year. We work on it a lot [in practice] and I’ve made that one of main goals, to work on my blocking,” Thompson said. “Working on reaching in and pushing over.”Another thing in her favor to win the starting nod is her innate similarities to the incumbent starter Mitchell, who made obvious her choice to become the second middle blocker next season.“I think Dom has a really good chance to be the second middle as long as she focuses on what she needs to improve,” Thompson said. “She’s done some great things on the court and I think if she just builds on that in the offseason she’ll definitely be that next middle because she has so much speed and athleticism.”Thompson, who stands at roughly the same height as Mitchell, projects to have eerily similar stats to Mitchell in her 2009 freshman campaign.“I see a lot of myself in her when I was a freshman,” Mitchell said.If Thompson makes the same strides as Mitchell has in the last year, Waite will have two very talented middles on his hands.Mitchell, who had a career-high 21 kills in a match last weekend at Ohio State, has established herself as not only the go-to middle, but one of the go-to hitters and vocal leaders as well.“It’s really been great to see the progress she made from freshman year to sophomore year. She was just a raw athlete as a freshman and was pretty erratic offensively, but now she’s really finding her game and really becoming a big force in the Big Ten,” Waite said. “It’s becoming a great connection between Nellie and Alexis, and she’s really driving hard and seeing the block.”The main things to improve upon for Mitchell over the next year are to stay healthy – something she was not always able to do this season – enhance her leadership skills and, in typical middle blocker fashion, increase her blocking prowess.“I really wanna work on my blocking stats up a lot more and become more of a dominant blocker on the team and in the conference,” Mitchell said. “I think with a lot of the great middle blockers that are gonna be leaving, I have a big opportunity to make an impact in the blocking stats and then just working on it all offseason so I can improve a lot.”Despite their height, the two use their quickness and leaping ability to compete with generally taller opponents.“Both have long arms and a big jump, so you can make up for it in different ways,” Waite said.Mitchell, Thompson and the three others hoping to force their way into the starting rotation all look to give problems to the coaching staff over who will play – a great problem to have for Waite and the Badgers.