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Wisconsin volleyball: UW closes out spring season with win over UNI

UW ends its spring exhibition schedule with a perfect 4-0 record as all the players on the roster touched the court.

@BadgerVB; UW Athletics

The defending champion Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team finished up their spring exhibition matches undefeated, thanks to a 3-1 win over the Northern Iowa Panthers Friday night.

While there will still be a lot of questions going forward as the Badgers move into the summer and then fall practice and new faces join the team, here are some wrap up notes from this question along with maybe a question or two that remains to be answered.

Reed ‘em and weep

In 2021, Sydney Reed transferred to the Badgers from North Carolina, where she appeared in only one set for the red and white despite playing during the fall 2020 for the Tar Heels.

However, Reed had a great night for Wisconsin against the Panthers in the last exhibition, maybe forcing her way into the defensive rotation — or a role as a serving specialist. Reed had four aces to lead the team and also played a set at libero.

Back to the 5-1

After Wisconsin tinkered with a 6-2 rotation in their match against Marquette, both MJ Hammill and Izzy Ashburn took turns as the lone setter in a 5-1 rotation to close out the season. Again, the competition seemed neck and neck as Hammill led the way with 19 assists while Ashburn had 16.

Block Party

The Badgers middle blockers lived up to their job description last night, as both Caroline Crawford (who was noted as “CC Crawford” in the Badgers’ write up — maybe this is a Johnathan to Johnny Davis situation) and Devyn Robinson led the team with seven blocks each as UW unblocked UNI 14-6.

Lauren Jardine also helped out on the defensive frontlines, posting five blocks as she has gotten a good run this pre-season

Outside burners

Speaking of Lauren Jardine, it was another good day for outside hitters like her on the offensive side of the ball. Jade Demps had a team-leading 10 kills while the Jardine, the Utah-native, posted nine kills.

UW had their worst game hitting with just a .211 hitting percentage, but the defense held UNI to just .185.

How to put together the puzzle?

So while the Badgers’ spring schedule is wrapped up, I’m sure Kelly Sheffield will head back to the lab to think about the rotation heading into competitive play in the fall.

UW has some big remaining questions to answer: who will be the setter? MJ Hammill, Izzy Ashburn or sometimes both? Will Boyer keep the libero jersey? How healthy is Danielle Hart after her ACL injury last year? And where do the other players yet to join fit?

The Badgers add some very intriguing pieces in Sarah Franklin — an All-Big Ten First Team outside attacker who transferred from Michigan State — and freshmen Ella Wrobel, another tall outside hitter who was the number one ranked player from Illinois, and Gülce Güçtekin, a Turkish libero who might earn the shirt as a freshman.

I guess we’ll learn all these answers come the fall, when UW defends its national championship.

Other notes:

  • All players once again saw the court during the match
  • I mentioned that Sydney Reed was the libero for at least one set. Joslyn Boyer and Anna MacDonald also wore the shirt
  • Caroline Crawford tallied another ace, showing that she can provide an option from behind the line
  • Speaking of serving, UW had 10 aces while UNI had just four. Izzy Ashburn also had three aces.
  • Liz Gregorski led the team in digs on the night with nine.
  • Not much action in the write up from Julia Orzoł. My guess is she was mostly rested as she was recovering from some lingering leg issues, and UW was testing out other options.
  • The other freshman phenom from last year, Anna Smrek, had nine kills and four blocks. Casual.