Wisconsin opened its season just as you’d expect a national champion to do: proving themselves against a lesser opponent.
The new-look defending champs posted a 3-0 (25-11, 25-18, 25-16) sweep against the TCU Horned Frogs as familiar faces and old stars emerged.
All-Big Ten preseason first-team outside hitter Sarah Franklin led the Badgers with 12 kills while posting a .407 hitting percentage. The 6-foot-4 former Spartan also showed off an all-around game with an assist coming from a heat-seeking missile of a serve to go with five digs and one block.
The block was the biggest story in the match for UW, as their size overwhelmed TCU, especially in the first set. Wisconsin out-blocked the Horned Frogs 27-1 in the match, and the Badgers stuffed 10 shots in the opening set alone.
Sophomore middle blocker Anna Smrek led the way on the block with nine on the night, while junior Devyn Robinson had 8, and newcomer Caroline Crawford had 7 as TCU struggled to get a rhythm on offense in the first. The Badgers forced the Frogs to hit -.115 in the opening frame to cruise to a 25-11 set win.
Badgers are boot scoot n’ boogie-n pic.twitter.com/Zi8ThFSe3N— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) August 27, 2022
Head coach Kelly Sheffield opened the night using a 6-2 rotation with setters Izzy Ashburn and MJ Hammill coming in and out. Ashburn started out the night, and she quickly had two aces serving to go along with 16 assists. Hammill also notched two aces and posted eight assists.
After the initial steam rolling in the first set, TCU was able to battle back in the second and kept it tight initially. The Frogs were lifted by Julia Adams, who led both teams with 13 kills and came alive in the second set.
But successful service runs from Hammill and Franklin provided UW with enough cushion to stay ahead and close out the second 25-18.
In the third set, sophomore outside hitter Julia Orzoł helped close out the match with a typically solid match. She was a presence on all sides of the court, coming up with seven digs, an impressive solo block and two assists. On offense, she hit for eight kills on .308 hitting.
Just as Orzoł was an instant impact freshman, another star emerged for the Badgers tonight. Turkish freshman Gülce Güçtekin wore the libero jersey, where she looked poised in her first ever start after arriving on campus just a few weeks ago.
Güçtekin had three impressive assists to go alongside a team-leading 12 digs. The freshman also had two aces and was generally ebullient in celebrations, hinting that she’ll fit right in as a spark plug for the UW defense.
There were some first-game jitters it seemed — moments when the defenders seemed to get in each other’s way and moments where the attackers and setters weren’t quite the well-oiled machine we’re accustomed to — but the new-look Badgers still look a lot like the same old Badgers that just won the national title.
Their first real test in their title defense comes tomorrow against the No. 16 Baylor Bears. Tragically, this game is not streaming anywhere, but it will happen at 4:00 p.m. in Fort Worth.