According to the NCAA, the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (5-5 Big Ten, 14-5 overall) have endured the second-hardest schedule in the nation. And as the Badgers embark on the second half of their conference season, they are seeking significantly better results.
While UW has cooled off record-wise from its 9-0 start to the season, Wisconsin’s freshmen have continued to positively develop. Freshman middle blocker Dana Rettke earned Big Ten Player of the week as well as Freshmen of the week honors for the second week in a row.
“It’s really cool for me,” Rettke said. “There are so many amazing players in the Big Ten, it’s crazy.”
However, earning these accomplishments does not mean she will stop working hard. “I use it as motivation. I know as I get better, everyone else is getting better,” she adds. Rettke attributed her own personal recognition to her teammates saying, “it says Dana Rettke, but it’s everyone on this team.”
Freshman setter Sydney Hilley added to the Badgers’ performance with back-to-back double-doubles last week as well, finishing the weekend with a season-high 52 assists and 11 digs against the No. 2 Minnesota Gophers.
Although the Badgers did not defeat their conference rivals, Wisconsin left the match with a lot to learn.
“We want to be able to get better at when it stressful moments happen or when teams get on runs against us,” assistant coach Gary White said. “We haven’t been great serving under pressure.”
As a result, UW’s coaching staff has implemented high-pressure scenarios to prepare for game-like situations.
“We want to create environments so they have to become successful so that when they get into those matches, they can excel in them,” White said.
Whether it be head coach Kelly Sheffield silencing the gym and trying to get into the players heads or blasting the music just to cut it off as they are about to serve, the Badgers are using these distractions to emulate game-time stress and pressure in order to be ready for what the real match will throw at them.
All season long, UW’s players and staff have been preaching looking at the season one game at a time and not being afraid of its potentially more experienced opponents.
“Coach Kelly always says, ‘Let it rip,’” Rettke said. “It means just go for it. There is no reason to be scared. We’re playing against the top players in the nation. You really can’t be scared, you’ve just got to play.”
As the Badgers travel out east to play the top team in the conference and the nation, No. 1 Penn State (9-1 Big Ten, 19-1 overall) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. they hope to “let it rip.” They then return home to host Northwestern (2-8 Big Ten, 12-10 overall) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the UW Fieldhouse.