Wisconsin volleyball team playing a numbers game in the spring (2024)

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  • Dennis Punzel | Wisconsin State Journal
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Wisconsin volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield talks about the team's senior class, which was honored after the Badgers' final regular-season match against Iowa on Nov. 20, 2023.

The roster for the University of Wisconsin volleyball team will look a lot different this fall than it will for Friday night’s spring match.

The Badgers are working with just nine players this spring and are likely to have just seven of them available to play against Illinois-Chicago in the first of their two spring matches.

There will be plenty of familiar faces for the match, which starts at 7 p.m. at the UW Field House. Sarah Franklin, the reigning AVCA National Player of the Year, will be back at outside hitter, along with Julia Orzol. Devyn Robinson, Carter Booth and Anna Smrek will take care of the middle blocker and right side spots, with Gulce Guctekin at libero.

Wisconsin volleyball team playing a numbers game in the spring (1)

Those are all players who were major contributors last season when the Badgers posted a 30-4 record and advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

The only newcomer in the bunch will be setter Carly Anderson, whose arrival as a transfer from Montana made it possible for the Badgers to even play a spring match.

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Two other players, middle blocker Caroline Crawford (hip) and defensive specialist Saige Damrow (knee), are working their way back from offseason surgeries. Crawford is getting closer to being able to play, while Damrow is slowly ramping up and should be ready to go for the upcoming season.

“We’ve got a lot of talent coming back, but not a lot of numbers right now in the gym,” said coach Kelly Sheffield.

The numbers problem will be taken care of with the arrival of a six-person freshman class, led by setter Charlie Fuerbringer, along with outside hitter Trinity Shadd-Ceres, middle blocker Tosia Serafinowska, defensive specialists Lola Schumacher and Maile Chan and setter Morgan Van Wie.

Sheffield would like to add two more players to that mix after the transfer portal reopens for two weeks on May 1.

“We absolutely will be bringing in at least one more person through the portal,” Sheffield said. “What that is, we don’t know. We have one scholarship and we absolutely are hoping to use that. That is the plan. Ideally, we would like two attackers, whether that’s a left and a right or a left and a middle. That’s one of the advantages of our big kids being capable of playing multiple positions.”

In addition to landing Anderson from the portal in January, the Badgers made a run at former Minnesota outside hitter Taylor Landfair, who chose to go to Nebraska instead. If they can find another top-flight outside hitter in May that would allow Orzol to potentially move back to libero, where she played last season.

As it is, Wisconsin will have just three outsides— Franklin, Orzol and Shadd-Ceres.

“I feel like we’re in as good a position with those three as anyone in the country,” Sheffield said. “But I’d feel a whole lot better if it was more than just three. We’ve had years where we’ve had five. And it’s an incredible opportunity because two of those are graduating after this year and one of those was our libero. So is it possible to break into the lineup this year? Yeah. Does it give them an advantage for the year after to break into the lineup? Yeah. That’s a position we would like to add a little bit more.”

Paris possibilities

Sheffield is planning to take his family to Paris for the Summer Olympics. And there’s a reasonable chance that they’ll be able to follow two former Badgers with the U.S. team. Setter Lauren Carlini has returned from her pro season in Turkey to train with the National Team in Anaheim, California, where she will be joined by middle blocker Dana Rettke after she completes her season in Italy. U.S. coach Karch Kiraly won’t name the 13-member team for the Olympics until June.

There’s a chance that they could be joined in Paris by Shadd-Ceres, who is one of the top long jumpers in her native Canada.

“They feel like she has a really good chance of making the roster,” Sheffield said.

Shadd-Ceres will have to meet the Olympics qualifying standard of 6.86 meters (22.5 feet). Her career best according to World Athletics is 6.49 meters (21.29 feet). The qualification period runs through June 30.

Although she has excelled in track and field— she’s run 100 meters in 12.15 seconds— there’s no question that her priority will be volleyball once she arrives in Madison.

“It’s amazing the talent she has for a sport she says she doesn’t particularly enjoy that much,” Sheffield said. “This kid is a really, really special track athlete. The kid loves volleyball. That’s where her heart is right now. She’s got talent to be pretty special. She’s got to get used to the speed and power of the college game, but her ceiling is awfully special. We’re hoping she misses the first few days of preseason where she’s still over there in Paris. But if she’s not able to make that, she’ll get in here a little bit sooner.”

Showcase tickets on sale

Tickets for the Women’s College Volleyball Showcase at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday at www.ticketmaster.com.

The two-day event will feature Wisconsin, Texas, Stanford and Minnesota. The Badgers and Longhorns will meet in a rematch from last season’s national semifinals on Sunday, Sept. 1 at 11:30 a.m., with Minnesota and Stanford meeting after that.

On Monday, Sept. 2, Wisconsin will play Stanford at 4 p.m., followed by a match between Texas and Minnesota.

A limited number of two-day packages will be available, while the majority of tickets will be sold as individual day tickets, which will be good for both matches on either Sunday or Monday.

A league of their own

Sheffield passed along a note that had been brought to his attention: of the approximately 1,300 college football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams, only one team has finished each of the past five seasons ranked among the top five in the nation. That would be the Wisconsin volleyball team.



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Dennis Punzel | Wisconsin State Journal

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Wisconsin volleyball team playing a numbers game in the spring (2024)
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