It has been almost 130 days since the Wisconsin Badgers took down the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball National Championship… Not that we are counting or anything.
You may be wondering how our 2021 National Champions are doing, and I have the complete update you are looking for.
Following the Badger’s win in five sets against the Cornhuskers, a celebration ensued and is still happening today, as the Badgers are being honored across the state. Five players — Lauren Barnes, Sydney Hilley, Giorgia Civita, Dana Rettke and Grace Loberg — will be ending their careers as Badgers as their eligibility is up.
Rettke signed a professional contract to play in Italy with Vero Volley Monza, and the team’s star setter, Sydney Hilley, signed a contract with a team in Turkey. However, Hilley does not appear to be on their roster anymore and is back in the states.
Two other Badgers have left the team to enter the transfer portal and see what opportunities lie outside Madison. Julia Wohlert, a middle blocker and right-side hitter, will leave the program as a grad transfer with two years of eligibility left. Wohlert, who played in three sets during her time at Wisconsin, plans to join Florida Gulf Coast University.
Freshman outside hitter Lauren Jardine also entered her name in the transfer portal right after the conclusion of the spring season. Jardine played in 24 sets for the Badgers in the 2021 season, tallying 45 kills and a hitting percentage of .235. With fellow freshman Julia Orzol having an outstanding first season — and other outside hitters set to join the program — Jardine’s playing time was left uncertain. At this time, it is still unknown where the Utah native will transfer to.
Two freshmen will be joining the National Champions in the fall. Ella Wrobel and Gulce Guctekin have big shoes to fill, but they have proven ready for the job. Wrobel, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter from Plainfield, Illinois, was named the best volleyball player in Illinois by MaxPreps.com, with countless state and national accolades to back up that title.
Guctekin, a libero from Turkey, is a five-year Turkish Junior National Team member. Coach Kelly Sheffield describes Gulce as having exceptional talent and unique experiences that not many American players get to have.
On the transfer side, Wisconsin will be welcoming three new players from across the country. One of those transfers, Caroline Crawford, has already joined the Badgers, having arrived in January. Crawford, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker from the University of Kansas, earned All-Big 12 First Team in her first year at Kansas and All-Big 12 Second Team in her sophomore year.
Fellow transfers Sarah Franklin from Michigan State and Gabby McCaa from Boston College will soon be sporting the red and white as well.
Franklin, an outside hitter, leaves the Spartans following her stand-out season, where she recorded 404 kills in a season, only five behind Wisconsin’s Dana Rettke. Additionally, Franklin was chosen alongside Badgers Dana Rettke and Sydney Hilley to be on the First Team All-Big Ten this past season. McCaa, a middle and right side, will be a substantial addition in the front row for her blocking skills. The junior led the Eagles in blocks with 117 this past season and averaged 0.98 blocks per set.
As for the remaining Badgers, they were able to play four matches this spring to test the waters without the graduates, many of which were starters. Wisconsin finished their spring season a successful 4-0. Meanwhile, two of the most important positions on the court remain up for grabs. Both the setter and libero positions were left open by two highly decorated athletes, and it remains unknown who will fulfill them.
Both MJ Hammill and Izzy Ashburn split time in the spring season at the setter position. Ashburn played in every set last season as a defensive specialist and led the team in service aces with 52. On the other hand, sophomore Hammill only saw the court in three sets last season.
As for the libero position, Sydney Reed, Joslyn Boyer and Anna MacDonald all split time in the spring season to try and prove themselves. Boyer, a previous transfer from Iowa, seems to be leading the pack of liberos. In the 2021 season as a defensive specialist, Boyer was fifth in team digs and third in service aces. Additionally, she found herself as the starting libero at Iowa as a sophomore before coming to Madison. MacDonald can be considered a close second; however, she did not see the court nearly as much as Boyer did in 2021.
The starting lineup — along with the fall schedule — may remain a mystery as of now, but our excitement for the season is greater than ever. History was made last year, so it is impossible to predict what Sheffield and the Badgers have in store for this year.