Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Playing with heart

As the starting outside hitter for the UW volleyball team, sophomore Jill Odenthal was riding high on the experience of being 4-2 as a starter and contributing in the Badgers’ great non-conference start.

Odenthal’s early-season success included being named to the Inn Towner Invitational All-Tournament team, recording a career high in digs with 12 against North Carolina, and setting a personal best in hitting percentage at .652 against Illinois State. Odenthal — or Odi, as she is known on the team — was averaging over three kills per game as an early-season starter, but her blocking on the right side had become a defensive weak point for the Badgers.

“We had Odi on the right side for a while, and she was scoring pretty well, but we felt she wasn’t blocking as well as we needed to on the right,” head coach Pete Waite said.


Waite’s decision to bring in veteran right-side blocker Lori Rittenhouse greatly reduced the playing time of Odenthal. She was relegated to a role of bench leader, in which she cheered her teammates on and entered matches only when the Badgers had the victory well in hand.

“It’s never fun to not play, but then again I have some great teammates, and they fill their roles very, very well,” Odenthal said. “I am as proud to have Lori Rittenhouse play as to have me play.”

After a disheartening loss to Indiana on Oct. 12, Waite decided to use his fifth different starting line-up of this season. The coach’s new changes moved outside hitter Lisa Zukowski to the libero position and inserted Odenthal at the vacated outside-hitter position.

In her first match back as a starter, Odenthal contributed a career high 17 kills against a Michigan State team that was ranked No. 23 in the nation.

“I have a shot to get some stuff done on the floor, and basically it feels nice to help my team any way I can,” Odenthal said.

She followed her performance against Michigan State by recording 11 kills against Michigan, propelling the team to their first season sweep of a Big Ten foe.

“I’m starting to click with Mo (Morgan Shields) a lot more,” Odenthal said. “I’m just going out there and playing aggressive everyday and working on that one day at a time.”

Odenthal remained a starter as the Badger’s went into Northwestern Wednesday and Penn State last Saturday. The Badgers lost to unranked Northwestern and then beat No. 9 Penn State, representing the type of up-and-down season the team is having.

“It’s a confidence issue somewhat, we just got to get out there and be aggressive all the time,” Odenthal said. “It’s never fun to lose, but I’m learning a lot more than I ever have from winning every game, every match. I’m learning about our team personality and also about myself.”

The Badgers followed up their first loss to Northwestern in 29 matches by going into Penn State and defeating the No. 9 Nittany Lions (23-30, 32-30, 21-30, 30-28, 15-10) for the first time ever in Happy Valley. Odenthal contributed 10 kills in the Badger victory.

Although Odenthal has changed positions from the left outside hitter to the right side, her mentality for the season has remained fairly untouched.

“I was blocking on the right, and now I’m on the left; it’s the same technique, but you’re watching different kinds of hitters, so now I have to readjust,” Odenthal said. “Jill Maier is playing back row for me, and she’s doing a great job, so I don’t need to work on that right now; I’m very proud of her.”

With all the highs and lows that Jill Odenthal has faced this season, it would be easy to say that she is a strong individual. However, the adjective strong does not even come close to describing this athlete.

In the middle of the team press conference, after defeating the No. 23 Spartans and recording a career high 17 kills, Odenthal showed how mature and strong an individual she was.

That Friday she had lost her 19-year-old cousin, Peter Harrison, in a car accident. Harrison was attending school in New York and was a close friend of Odenthal’s as the two grew up. It was at the press conference that she put into perspective why the night had truly been so important to her.

“It was really shocking before it was upsetting at all,” Odenthal said. “I was just thinking he was 19 and that could be anybody. If you don’t go out there and give it your all and go 100 percent every single day; you know anything can happen.”

It wasn’t until that press conference that coach Waite or any of her teammates knew what she was going through. Odenthal dealt with it the best way she knew how and gave it her all that night on the volleyball court.

“Considering a college volleyball season is stressful enough at times with the wins and losses and play on the court, throwing in a family member dying is awfully tough, so I think she is doing a great job,” Waite said. “When she mentioned that in the press conference, I had not heard a thing about it before or noticed anything in her demeanor that would let me know something was wrong, so I think that says a lot about her character and how strong she was during that time.”

Beyond the loss of her cousin, being benched and the rollercoaster play of the team, Odenthal is also like every other sophomore here on campus. She is a genetics major who must take classes, midterms and deal with living with other individuals.

“I love [my sophomore year] so far; I love living with my roommates in the apartment, I love my classes, and the team’s always great”

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