Danielle Hart’s big match helps spark UW volleyball team to rout of Rutgers
For the University of Wisconsin volleyball team, its match against Rutgers on Saturday was pretty much anticlimactic.
The highlight of the day for the No. 6 Badgers came before the doors to the UW Field House even opened as they met with a group of young patients from the American Family Children’s Hospital and Carbone Cancer Center.
The kids presented the players with bright yellow warm-up T-shirts that they had decorated for them.
Not that they needed any added inspiration, the Badgers then went out and crushed the overmatched Scarlet Knights 25-9, 25-15, 25-10.
Redshirt freshman Danielle Hart, filling in for the injured Grace Loberg, had the best match of her brief career with 11 kills and five blocks to lead the way for the Badgers (9-1, 2-0 Big Ten).
But even that was secondary in her mind.
“It was pretty amazing when we were in there getting these shirts and you’re watching the smiles on their faces,” Hart said. “I’m getting chills and watery eyes even now. It’s just awesome stuff. The fact that we get to have an impact on those kids and bring that to their day, that’s awesome. That’s the cherry on top.”
Sophomore setter Sydney Hilley had much the same reaction.
“I don’t even know if I can put that into words,” Hilley said. “It was really emotional for all of us, getting to talk to them. They were just so excited to be here and they were looking forward to this match for a long time. It means a lot.”
Certainly, more than the match.
The Badgers dominated throughout, trailing only 1-0 in the first set. UW hit a season-high .455 while holding the Scarlet Knights (0-2, 6-9) to a .056 hitting percentage.
“Not a lot to say about the match,” UW coach Kelly Sheffield said. “I thought we were steady all the way through. As we were making subs, I thought we continued to play clean.”
The biggest substitution came at the start. Loberg, the team’s No. 2 scorer averaging 3.18 kills per set, was given the day off to rest her ailing left leg. She said after the match that she will be ready to play Wednesday at Minnesota.
In her absence, redshirt junior Madison Duello shifted from the right to the left side; senior middle Tionna Williams slid over to the right and Hart made her third start in the middle. Her 11 kills equaled Duello for the match high and came on just 16 swings with no hitting errors.
“The young, powerful, confident player to my right (Hart) I thought did a really good job today,” Sheffield said. “(She) cleaned up some of those net violations early on and away she was running. So it was certainly good to see.”
Hart, who started the matches against High Point and Illinois State but didn’t play in the Big Ten opener against Ohio State, said she’s becoming more comfortable on the court after redshirting last season.
“I’ve already known this, but I’ve just really (learned) that I have to get myself collected and cool,” she said. “Especially in the beginning, I tend to get really hyped up and I’ve been doing better every time of keeping myself calmer.
“Obviously, I feel like I get better every set so I’m probably cooling down and getting back into my groove. I’ve got to find a way to come in and have that immediately. More playing time obviously helps.”
Barring injury, that playing time may be hard to come by in the Badgers’ crowded front court.
But Hilley is confident that Hart can make a positive impact whenever her opportunity arises.
“She’s grown so much since she came in here,” Hilley said. “She got most improved last season and I think that it’s just her work ethic and she’s so confident and wants the ball no matter what the situation is. I think this playing time has helped her become more confident.”
Rutgers 9 15 10
Wisconsin 25 25 25
RUTGERS (kills-digs-blocks) — Kojadinovic 2-0-0, McLetchie 8-2-0, Marmen 7-1-1, Balyko 0-6-1, Weidt 1-0-0, Stackhouse 3-0-2, Kamshilina 0-2-0, Kudryashova 2-1-0, Cieslik 1-2-0, Swackenberg 0-15-0. Totals 24-29-2.
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Hilley 0-5-3, Williams 4-0-4, Duello 11-4-2, Rettke 9-2-6, Hart 11-1-5, Haggerty 8-10-2, Bell 0-0-0, Dixon 0-2-0, Dodd 0-6-0, Shanahan 1-0-0, Clark 0-8-0, Dodge 0-4-0. Totals 44-42-11.5.
Hitting percentage — R .056, W .455. Aces — R 1 (Marmen), W 8 (Hilley, Duello, Haggerty 2). Assists — R 22 (Balyko 19), W 42 (Hilley 36). Att. – 7,052.