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Wisconsin volleyball: New arrival Sarah Franklin said Madison “second home,” hopes to help UW repeat

The 6-foot-4 transfer from MSU adds All-Big Ten quality and a six-rotation player, as she fit right in to competitive environment

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mark Stewart / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sarah Franklin already made herself known across the Big Ten volleyball world.

The standout outside hitter from Florida was the key offensive force last season for the Michigan State Spartans, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors as she led MSU in kills per set with 3.96 — third best in the conference. The 6-foot-4 standout saved her best work for conference play, where she hit over 4 kills per set, including seven matches with more than 20 kills.

But after a coaching change in East Lansing, Franklin put her name in the transfer portal, something she called a “hard decision” during the Big Ten’s volleyball media days. In February, Franklin pledged to join UW for her next three seasons of eligibility.

Franklin said Wisconsin was one of the programs she thought would be a good fit, which was soon sealed on a visit to Madison. Despite only knowing the Badgers from across the net, Franklin said meeting the coaches and being around the other players made Madison feel like a “second home.”

“When I went home, and analyzed what happened, I could see myself playing in the Field House, wearing a Wisconsin jersey,” Franklin said.

Now that she is wearing the red and white, she hopes her versatility and highly competitive nature can help the Badgers repeat as national champions — even with a roster filled with new faces.

Wisconsin’s super senior class that won the title — Dana Rettke, Sydney Hilley, Grace Loberg, Gio Civita and Lauren Barnes — may be gone, but Franklin is a welcome reinforcement with her shot making ability and versatility.

With the Spartans, Franklin was the offensive focal point, but she was more than capable of providing some juice from the service line and pitching in defensively. Playing all six rotations, Franklin added 2.25 digs per set as well as 25 aces, good enough for second most on the Spartans.

Franklin was one of three Badgers named to the preseason All-Big Ten team along with middle blockers Anna Smrek and Devyn Robinson, and she proved her skill during UW’s open exhibition. The former Spartan put up 14 kills in the Badgers’ Red and White scrimmage to open the season.

Franklin’s transfer takes her from being the big fish in a small pond to position to a pond filled with sharks, snapping at each other to get on the court. Franklin will likely be joined on the outside by last year’s freshman phenom Julia Orzoł, who was one of UW’s breakout new faces during the national title run. The Polish-native led all Badgers with 16 kills during the scrimmage, while new freshman outside Ella Wrobel also had 14 kills.

Competition for time and places might be fierce for the national champions, but that’s exactly what the former Spartan said she was craving. The high level of competition “lived up to what she thought it would be,” and she knows it is pushing her to get better thanks to Wisconsin’s title experience.

“I can learn from all the girls because they’ve been in the situation (of winning a national title),” Franklin said.

Despite being a new addition — one of four transfers to sign with UW during the offseason — Franklin said the transition has still been easy and the team has fit right in together easily. Franklin said she lives with fellow transfer Gabby McCaa, which helped them both in the early days.

The hard work in the summer is about to pay off for Franklin, and she hopes to continue to add more shots to her game and “make it happen” from all over the court. And Franklin was not shy in emphasizing that UW’s goal is the same as last year: to once again win titles, both the Big Ten and the national championship.

“That is our expectation,” Franklin said. “We are always striving for that, and that is the standard I hold myself to.”