In the national final, Wisconsin volleyball players will once again be represented by women who have a lot to prove.
Anna Smrek, a sophomore, will walk about the university or the neighborhood, and people will compliment her, take pictures of her, and gjenkjenne her. Who would not want to bring time with a national leader, especially one as hopeful as Smrek in December in the fjord?
6-foot-9 middle blockers/hyreslayers delay the start of the move. Simply put, she is uncomfortable with it and has hesitated a few times over how to respond.
“I thought, ‘Thank you,'” she said, “but there are six guys on the field, and more on the bench, that contribute to everything that happens there.”
The Badgers’ national championship last season was truly a team effort, but Smrek’s role in the final was epic: 14 kills, .428 shooting and seven blocks. She was named the game’s best player.
It was a big moment for the team, who were named the most improved player last season. We start to see where Smrek takes his fight next Friday.
UW kicks off the 2022 campaign against TCU at 7 p.m. Friday in Fort Worth, Texas, then 4 p.m. On Saturday, the Badgers, the USA Volleyball Coaches Association’s third-ranked national team, will face No. 16 Baylor in Fort Worth.
The team will have three preseason All-Big 10 selections — Smrek, junior Devyn Robinson and sophomore Sarah Franklin — plus last year’s Big Ten Rookie of the Year (Julia Orzol) and six freshmen, including four who are transfers. As a preseason favorite in the Big Ten, this franchise deserves its lofty status.
The continued development of Smrek is key to the team achieving this expectation and more. She is a second-year student.
“When you see her even above her height, the potential radiates from her,” Badgers coach Kelly Sheffield said. “She knows how to generate power and she moves very well. She takes up a lot of space.”
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Smrek finished last season with a .366 shooting percentage, fifth in the Big Ten, with 1.84 kills and 0.77 blocks per set. Most of her career highs – kills (20), hitting percentage (.704), blocks (7) and points (21.5) – were set during the national semifinals or finals.