Julia Wohlert couldn’t help but feel a bit of nostalgia Wednesday as she saw the photos of the four future University of Wisconsin volleyball players signing their national letters of intent.
A year ago that was her. Or was that just yesterday?
“I Snapchat and I saved my signing day picture and it was already a year ago,” Wohlert said. “It feels like a couple days ago. It seems so surreal. Now all the Baby Badgers are signing theirs and it’s really sweet. I was just telling them, before you know it you’re going to be here.”
Wohlert, a 6-foot-7 right side and middle blocker from Indianapolis, has one piece of advice to her future teammates based on her own experience.
“I would say enjoy your senior year more,” she said. “It will fly by. Don’t wish it by. I wished it by and that was bad, but I just wanted to get here.”
She felt that eagerness even though she knew all along that she would be redshirting her freshman year for the No. 7 Badgers (18-6, 11-5 Big Ten), who travel to Ohio State (12-16, 3-13) Friday night and Maryland (17-11, 8-8) on Saturday.
She knew it would be a year packed with training and skill development, but she didn’t fully grasp what lay ahead until she arrived on campus in the summer.
“I moved up here and the next day we had our first workout and it was very grueling,” said Wohlert, the Badgers’ only freshman. “It was up in the wrestling weight room and it was very hot, like a sauna, and it was just running and jumps the whole time. I was like, wow, this is going to be a lot of work.”
She quickly proved that she was up to the task and has impressed coach Kelly Sheffield with her work ethic through the season.
“I like her mentality,” Sheffield said. “She’s wanting to learn. She’s not afraid to get in there. There’s some toughness in there. The approach she has today is the same as she had at the beginning of the season. Every day she’s wanting to come and get better. I think she’s a great teammate.”
The key to having a successful redshirt season, Sheffield said, is for the player to understand the expectations from both a personal and a team standpoint.
“When you’re redshirting it is both a selfish and a selfless thing,” he said. “From a selfish standpoint you’ve got to continue to get better, work on your game and not let it be wasted time. From a selfless standpoint you have to understand that you have to find ways to make your teammates better, the ones that are going to be playing in matches.”
Wohlert, who has been training for both the right side and middle, has been focusing on getting her hands across the net on the block and developing a more powerful arm swing.
“She needs to be more dynamic,” Sheffield said. “She needs to get caught up to the speed of the game and get stronger physically.
“I think her arm swing is getting better. She’s putting more pop on the ball and she can be a tough player to defend in practice, just how she attacks and the areas that she works. And she’s a pretty big block in there. But she needs to get stronger and get more experience.”
Wohlert understands that she likely will have more time to gain that experience, as all the regulars in the front row will return next year except for senior middle Tionna Williams. Danielle Hart, who redshirted last year, is the likely successor for that spot.
Her priority is to keep working and improving so she can contribute whenever her time comes. In the meantime, she’s looking forward to the arrival of next year’s freshman class, a group with which she has been bonding over the past year.
“That’s what's awesome about it,” Wohlert said. “I didn’t have a recruiting class so at camps I got to know them and I kind of consider them my recruiting class but they’re a year behind. We’ll be all together for the next four years.”