MANCHESTER, Iowa — Playing six rotations is nothing new for Dana Rettke. But playing all six rotations in the front row was a unique experience.
As the only middle blocker available for the University of Wisconsin volleyball team in its spring match against Iowa State at West Delaware High School here Friday night, Rettke got the rare opportunity to play full-time in the front court as the teams agreed to some relaxed rotation rules.
And she took full advantage of the situation by recording 21 kills and nine blocks to lead the Badgers to a best-of-three sets victory 25-22, 25-27, 25-22.
“I’ve played six rotations in club and in high school so I was used to it and I knew I wouldn’t get that tired,” said Rettke, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Riverside, Illinois, who enrolled early to participate in spring volleyball. “There was a lot more reading and I don’t think my blocking was as great as it could’ve been. But I liked it.”
The biggest advantage to remaining in the front court throughout, she said, was to help develop her connection with fellow early-enrollee freshman setter Sydney Hilley.
“It was nice to have that connection with Syd,” she said. “So if it didn’t work one time we could try it again and again and again until we got our rhythm.”
Rettke said the chance to play four spring matches has helped speed her transition to college volleyball.
“I feel like I’m improving, slowly but surely,” she said. “I just really hope that I improve enough to play in the fall. I think I’ve caught up to the speed of the game somewhat so I’m a little more confident in my movement and stuff. It’s just a bunch of timing and stuff that I have to get down. Other than that I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
Coach Kelly Sheffield said he was pleased with Rettke’s progress through the spring and there is still plenty of room for growth, particularly with her blocking.
“She’s learning to work hard,” Sheffield said. “And she’s got a good setter that can get her the ball in good positions and she’s rewarded.
“We haven’t been able to spend a ton of time blocking this spring. When you have basically one middle in practice you can’t do a lot. So we focused a lot more offensively. We’ve done a little bit of blocking, but she’s a work in progress. She’s still has a little ways to go for that area to be as good as what it’s capable of being.”
The Badgers hit .278 as a team with 39 kills and 14 errors in 90 attempts, while the Cyclones hit .226 with 39 kills and 20 errors in 84 attempts. UW had 38 digs, led by rising senior Kelli Bates with nine.
Sheffield said he was generally pleased with the progress of his team, which finished the spring with a 4-0 record. The Badgers were playing without two of their top returning players in middle blocker Tionna Williams and outside hitter Molly Haggerty, who are recovering from injuries.
“We’re better now than what we were when we started spring, and that’s what you want,” he said. “I think our connection with Sydney and the hitters has gotten stronger as we went through the spring.
“We have a lot of young kids that are playing and they’re getting better. I’m sure all of our players should be pretty excited about going into the summer and continuing to build.”