CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Lauren Barnes could sympathize with the Florida State defenders at times Friday as they tried to handle attacks from Dana Rettke. Barnes has been in their shoes the past two years when she was playing for Minnesota and she gets to see it every day in practice.
And Barnes can attest that it’s a lot more fun to watch from behind.
Rettke gave everybody plenty to watch as she put away a match-high 17 kills to help lead the No. 5 University of Wisconsin volleyball team to a 25-15, 25-22, 25-23 victory against Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Carmichael Arena.
“It’s awesome,” Barnes said of her new perspective on Rettke’s game. “I get so hyped up, I was over there chest-bumping her. It’s amazing to see it when you’re not trying to keep it from hitting the floor and you can cheer for it to go to the floor.”
Rettke, a two-time first-team All-American, had just two hitting errors in 36 swings as she hit .417. She also had two of the Badgers’ four aces and served nine consecutive points in the second set.
Coach Kelly Sheffield, who recorded his 161st win at UW to tie John Cook for second place behind Pete Waite (305) in program history, said Rettke’s serve is perhaps her biggest area of improvement this season.
“No doubt about it, she’s got the ability to go on runs for us,” he said. “In the past sometimes the runs she would end herself, but today they had to earn their way out of her serve. I think her serving and defending has gotten a lot better.”
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Rettke said becoming more consistent from the service line was one of her priorities coming into the season.
“I’ve gotten a much more consistent toss and better hand contact, making sure I extend all the way so that ball comes straight down,” Rettke said. “Service runs aren’t just the server. I did my job of getting them out of system and everyone else did their job of being in the right places and making clean, strong moves.”
Nobody appreciates Rettke’s impact on a match more than Sheffield. But he’s quick to point out that she’s just part of the equation, with setter Sydney Hilley playing a major role.
“It’s more than Dana,” Sheffield said. “It’s the connection between Sydney and Dana. No matter how good Dana is, if that ball isn’t in the right spot she isn’t going to be able to do Dana-like things. I thought the connection between the two of them was awfully good the entire match.”
That connection is a product of a setter and hitter in their third seasons together, Rettke said.
“Syd and I are best friends off the court, we’re roommates and that definitely helps,” she said. “Syd is the best setter in the country now and I’m really thankful for that.”
Hilley’s connection with the rest of her hitters was pretty strong as well, as redshirt junior Molly Haggerty had 12 kills, redshirt senior Madison Duello eight and junior Grace Loberg seven.
Barnes had 14 digs to help spearhead the defense, which held the Seminoles to a .144 hitting percentage and just 31 kills for the match. Freshman Izzy Ashburn added 10 digs and just about everybody who played in the backcourt contributed a diving dig or two along the way.
“I think we’re all on the same page that nothing is touching the floor,” said Barnes, who played her first match as a Badger after two seasons as a Gopher. “The motivation is through the roof. We have one job, to keep the ball off the floor and we kind of play off each other.”