Dana Rettke has some unfinished business left with the University of Wisconsin volleyball program.
Rettke, the 6-foot-8 middle blocker who became just the sixth four-time first-team All-American this spring, said Tuesday that she will come back to play a fifth season with the Badgers this fall, taking advantage of a bonus year of eligibility offered to student-athletes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rettke has spent the past couple months talking with a variety of people involved in different levels of volleyball in making the decision to postpone her professional career for a few months.
“It was really important for me to make sure that I looked at all the opportunities that I had and made the best decision,” Rettke said. “No one in the college game has ever had to make a decision like this. Usually it’s like your four years are done, you’re done.
“Navigating this environment was something no one has ever really had to do before and I wanted to make sure I did the best job possible, looking at all my options and deciding what would be best for me.
“And this was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss out on. That’s just kind of where my heart fell, knowing that this is it for college. Pro volleyball can wait a little bit.”
Rettke said she talked with people about pro opportunities overseas and people involved with the U.S. National team to get a feel about the international volleyball scene.
“Part of my decision definitely came from the fact that COVID in other parts of the world is not as controlled as it is getting to be here in the U.S.,” Rettke said. “Another thing was that it was looking more and more like a back-to-normal environment here in the fall. Everyone is getting vaccinated, that rollout is going really well and we’re selling tickets for the Field House and we’re going to have a full schedule of games this year.”
Rettke is the last of eight UW seniors to make a decision on whether or not to return. She is the fifth to decide to come back, joining setter Sydney Hilley, outside hitter Grace Loberg, libero Lauren Barnes and defensive specialist Giorgia Civita. Outside hitter Molly Haggerty and defensive specialist Deahna Kraft chose to pursue post-college opportunities and middle blocker Nicole Shanahan is graduate transferring to Tennessee.
Rettke’s return figures to be a big boost to the Badgers’ hopes of attaining that first NCAA championship in program history. They have advanced to the final four in each of the past two seasons, losing in the championship match to Stanford in 2019 and being eliminated by Texas in the semifinals in April.
“We’re excited about the talent we’ve got coming back and we’re excited about the talent we’ve got coming in,” coach Kelly Sheffield said. “She certainly is one of the anchors of it.”
Sheffield said he talked with Rettke and her family about her situation before the season and again after the season.
“At the end of the day we want what is best for her,” Sheffield said. “We weren’t going to recruit her or anything but we’re excited about the opportunity to coach her again. But we would’ve been excited for her as well had she decided to move on to the pro game.
“She’s got options. She’s worked very hard to give herself options and there really wasn’t going to be a bad choice either way.”
Rettke averaged 3.17 kills per set in the spring season, hitting .414, and also had 1.50 blocks per set.
She ranks first in career hitting percentage (.420) in program history. She is sixth in kills per set (3.57) and third in blocks per set (1.46).
Rettke said the opportunity to take another shot at a title was a big motivating factor in her decision, especially with much of the core of the team returning.
“It definitely does drive me, mostly on the team level but also on the personal level too,” she said. “I know this team is so close to being there and winning a national championship and doing something this program has been building toward.
“I think it speaks volumes in terms of us as a program and as teammates. There’s a reason why so many of us want to come back. We love this program, we love the university we get to play for, we love the people we get to play for. It’s such a fun environment. There’s nowhere else you can find that in college volleyball.
“I think that we all have the same mind-set and the same belief that we have the ability to do something special. That was kind of a driving factor. It’s up to us how great we can be this season and I think we’re up to that challenge.”