The Wisconsin Badgers open the 2021 volleyball season at No. 1 in the country in the AVCA preseason rankings. Rightfully so. The Badgers return four All-Americans to the team, including 2019 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Dana Rettke.
Rettke led her team to the national championship match last season. And this year? Her goals remain the same.
"Our standards are obviously really high after last season and we are not lowering the bar for anyone," Rettke said. "Even with new kids on the team, standards are the same....Gritty team, great serving, great blocking, hitting everything."
As far as the No. 1 ranking goes, Rettke said her team is super excited about that honor. They haven't played a game in "one year, one month and one day," to be exact. (Who's counting?) But they know they still have more to prove. Rettke said they just want to come out and prove themselves after last season. That is the focus — they aren't consumed with the ranking. Instead, they are consumed with getting better.
WISCONSIN VOLLEYBALL: Kelly Sheffield builds his ultimate dream player
A lot of players on this 2021 team were part of the national championship game last season. NCAA.com asked Rettke what coach Kelly Sheffield's message has been to the team and what the Badgers message has been coming off of the heartbreaking loss in the championship.
"Skill-wise, coming out of the fall, we worked a lot on out-of-system. We have gotten so much better going forward," Rettke said. "Right now we just want to play Badger volleyball, game by game. We are only playing Big Ten matches this year, so it will be a little bit of an adjustment."
In terms of adjustment periods with this team getting back on the court, though, there hasn't been much of one for this group. Yes, there was after a three-month quarantine, but Rettke felt fortunate that their team has gotten to practice almost all of fall. And with a lot of returning talent, they already know pretty well how to work with one another.
The Badgers did lose their starting libero, Tiffany Clark, and outside hitter Madison Duello. And despite returning so many players, they did bring in a ton of incoming talent. According to Rettke, they have eight players on the team that are new to the program.
"The talent we have in our gym right now is amazing," Rettke said. "The practices we have been having, the competition has never been higher since I have been here at Wisconsin."
The Badgers open up the season at home versus Purdue on Friday, Jan. 22 6:30 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network.
Listen above to the full video for more on the upcoming season for Wisconsin volleyball.