The defending national champion Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team was back in action on Tuesday night, taking on the Green Bay Phoenix in a spring exhibition match in Beaver Dam, Wis.
UW swept UWGB 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-23) while also playing a fourth set that ended up in UW’s favor as well, 25-11.
So great to talk to @BrittDildine from @BadgerVB on LIVE TELEVISION tonight! It took forever for @KellyPSheffield to follow me back on Twitter... I'm hoping it won't take as long for you to do the same. :-) pic.twitter.com/ytXx3yTtNu— Mike Jocko Jacques (@jockosports) March 30, 2022
As I wasn’t there, I will just provide some casual, quick notes about what I noticed from social media and what I see in the stats and write up the Badgers’ website provided.
2 Setters, 2 Furious
With the masterful Sydney Hilley graduating, one of the biggest questions this season will be who takes over as the team’s setter.
Both Izzy Ashburn and MJ Hammill saw action from the setter spot, with Ashburn starting out as the point guard for the Badger attack. Ashburn recorded 18 assists in the first two sets while Hammilll posted nine in the third set. Seems like a safe bet the Badgers will be in good shape no matter who is running the offense.
Orzoł really can do it all, but Boyer looks to the lead back row
The Polish freshman phenom provided a huge spark to Wisconsin’s attack last season. Turns out, she also can do a lot on defense.
While Orzoł also was capable of putting up double digit kill-performances as an outside hitter, Orzoł donned the libero jersey in the third set and did not look at all out of place, notching 10 digs and adding a team-leading four aces.
What can’t she do?— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) March 30, 2022
S4 | 22 - 9 pic.twitter.com/eFmLbCFpgy
Joslyn Boyer started as libero and recorded 15 digs in the match along with three aces. Boyer is one of the more likely candidates to take over the role, but incoming freshman Gülce Güçtekin might also be a key part of the back row when she joins up for the fall season.
But judging by Boyer’s performance on defense as well as from the service line — the Badgers as a whole did a lot of damage too with seven aces — and her veteran leadership, she will be a key part of the defense.
Stacked front attack, especially the middle
Replacing Dana Rettke and Grace Loberg will be no easy feat for the Badgers. But the cupboard certainly does not look bare, especially at the middle blocker spot.
Another freshman sensation Anna Smrek continued to look great up front, getting a team-leading 11 kills while hitting .600 on the night. Devyn Robinson posted six kills while hitting .556, but she shone on defense with a team-leading six blocks.
Meanwhile, new face Caroline Crawford also stepped into the match, coming up with five blocks. The Kansas transfer adds more depth, especially if Danielle Hart still needs time to recover from her ACL injury from last year.
Other random notes/observations
- The idea of going to high school across the state is such an awesome thing, and the fans really showed up and packed the gym in Beaver Dam.
- Love the choice from Boyer to take the No. 1 jersey. Really gotta know your worth and demand excellence as No. 1.
- The write up from UW didn’t have a ton to say about the outside hitters. That’s not an inherently bad thing considering the excellent play of Robinson and Smrek, but it will be something to look out for.
- The team already is very deep, and is still yet to have incoming freshmen Güçtekin and outside hitter Ella Wrobel, outside hitter Sarah Franklin from Michigan State and middle blocker Gabby McCaa from Boston College in the gym
- I for one was very happy to see Liz Gregorski back in the lineup playing. The ultimate bench leader and only Wisconsin-native on the roster deserves some shine
- A general shoutout to the Badger volleyball twitter account, who always has great stuff to follow along with.