Letdown? What letdown?
OK, maybe a fair number of University of Wisconsin volleyball fans are still from Friday night’s emotionally charged, record-setting crowd match against Florida at the Kohl Center.
But for the Badgers, it was back to business as usual on Sunday as they rolled over an overmatched Rhode Island team 25-16, 25-10, 25-16 back home at the UW Field House.
While the match fell 25 tickets short of a sellout and a good many of those ticket holders failed to show — the student section was about six rows deep after filling both ends of the Kohl Center’s three levels two nights earlier — those who did make it saw the No. 4 Badgers playing at a high level for most of their final tune-up for the Big Ten Conference season.
“There was a lot going on this weekend,” coach Kelly Sheffield said. “You’ve got everything from Friday night and the hoopla and the disappointment of not being able to pull that one out. It was a recruiting weekend and we had some people here and then being honored at the football game. And then starting to get ready to play a match.
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“I liked how we came and were ready to play a volleyball match. That’s their job, right? That’s the responsibility that you’ve got to do and I thought we did a good job with that. I thought our entire team had some good moments.”
Freshman libero Gulce Guctekin had more than her share of those good moments. Guctekin, who famously had never served in her life until joining the Badgers, tied a school record (25-point rally scoring era) with six service aces. It’s a mark she now shares with program icon Lauren Carlini and teammate Izzy Ashburn, recognized as the best server on the team.
Neither Guctekin nor Ashburn knew about the record until the post-match news conference.
“I knew that GG had a really good serving day and she has all season,” Ashburn said.
“We work together and Izzy (teaches) me how better to serve,” Guctekin said. “We did special training together, so that’s maybe that’s why, because of her.”
While Guctekin’s serving has been a revelation — her 18 aces lead the team by eight over Ashburn — that part of her game is just something of a bonus. Her primary responsibilities are passing and digging. And Friday night she had her struggles, especially with passing, as Florida targeted her with serve after serve and had considerable success doing so.
Guctekin said she tried to learn from that experience and then put it behind her.
“I didn’t expect to play like that on Friday,” she said. “But it’s a game. We will play lots of games. We can’t just stop and talk this game. We have a lot of games so I have to be better. So this is my mentality, I have to be better every game.”
As challenging as the Florida match was for Guctekin, Sheffield was excited about the way she responded, both as that match progressed and against Rhode Island.
“It’s a hard game,” he said. “You play long enough and you have some moments where it’s like, whoa. What I liked about her the other night is she had a lot coming at her and it was rough at the beginning. She told me a lot about her toughness by getting better as the match went on. That’s one thing I was looking for.
“She had a rough time but I wasn’t going to sub her out and put someone else in. I wanted to learn how does she respond when things aren’t going well. What I learned about her was that she’s a pretty tough kid and got a lot better.
“We talked about technique this morning and I know she’s going to go to work on those little things this week. You’re wanting players that are resilient and tough and are willing to lean into learning. And she showed me both of those things. If you have both of those things you’re going to have an unbelievable career. What I learned from her was stuff that got me even more excited about coaching her the next three and a half years.”
The Badgers (6-2) hit .459 on Sunday as outside hitters Sarah Franklin and Julia Orzol each had nine kills to lead the way.
Defensively, they held the Rams (4-9) to just a .066 hitting percentage.
That was just what the Badgers were looking for as they turn their attention to conference play, which begins Friday against Northwestern at the Field House.
“We’re excited about playing the Big Ten because there’s just nothing like it,” Sheffield said. “When you get into conference play the tenacity raises, the energy in the building is raised, there’s a little bit more at stake and it tends to bring out the best in people.”
The Badgers received a 2024 commitment Sunday from Lola Schumacher, a 5-foot-5 libero from Carmel, Indiana. She plays for Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis and the Munciana volleyball club in Muncie, Indiana.
Schumacher is the fourth player to commit for the class, joining setter Charlie Fuerbringer of Hermosa Beach, California; middle blocker Tosia Serafinowska of Poland; and outside hitter Trinity Shadd-Ceres of Kitchener, Ontario.
RHODE ISLAND (kills-digs-blocks) — Powers 0-2-0, Wright 9-5-0, Blaney 0-8-0, Paulette 4-1-1, Gage 0-2-0, Shilling 2-0-1, Passerello 0-2-0, Pinell 4-1-1, Vente 2-1-0, Butler 1-2-0. Totals 22-24-2.
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Reed 0-1-0, MacDonald 0-0-0, Gregorski 0-1-0, Hammill 0-1-0, Crawford 6-0-1, Robinson 2-0-2, Ashburn 0-4-0, Franklin 9-2-0, Smrek 2-0-2, Demps 2-0-0, Wrobel 3-0-0, Hart 7-0-3, Guctekin 0-16-0, Orzol 9-4-0. Totals 40-29-4.
Hitting percentage — R .066, W .459. Aces — R 2 (Vente 2), W 12 (Guctekin 6). Assists — R 22 (Butler 13), W 37 (Ashburn 18). Att. – 7,204.