Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Simpson ‘setting’ pace for UW

[media-credit name=’BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]simpson_vb_BF[/media-credit]The University Wisconsin volleyball team has developed a balanced attack this year with five players averaging more than two kills per game. A lot of that can be attributed to the play of junior setter Jackie Simpson.

However, Simpson is not looking to receive any credit for the team's success. Instead, she is looking to give credit to the rest of her teammates.

"I think a lot of times, the focus goes to who gets the kills," Simpson said. "If I was going to say any position is under-noticed it would be the libero. Jocelyn Wack is the person who really steadies our team. So if anybody should get more recognition, it's her."


Simpson started her volleyball career in seventh grade where she was actually cut from the team. But she used that as motivation to become a better volleyball player.

"[Being cut] made me more interested in the sport because I was actually [more interested in] soccer and basketball," Simpson said. "I tried out for a club volleyball team that was run by my high school coach. She asked me to play on her eighth grade team, so then I started playing club."

Ever since then, volleyball has been her passion, and because of her good hands Simpson has become a successful setter.

"When I first tried out, I pretty much could not do anything but set," Simpson said. "Even though I was taller than almost ever girl on the court, they made me a setter because I had good hands."

After a successful high school career, where she named first-team all-state in 2003 by the Chicago Tribune and the Champaign News Gazette, Simpson was recruited by UW head coach Pete Waite.

"[Simpson] was a taller setter, No. 1. She is very physical, very strong," Waite said. "You watched her play in high school and she was very competitive also, and that is all good ingredients for a college setter. She played in the Chicago area, which is very tough in high school and club ball. Those are the things we wanted to bring to Wisconsin and she is progressing every year."

After starting 28 matches over the last two years and leading Wisconsin to the Elite Eight, Simpson broke her left hand in the spring. However, she used her time on the sideline to improve her game.

"With a broken hand, she wasn't able to be on the court, but I think she learned a lot in other ways," Waite said. "She got stronger with her serve. She got the mental side of the game down better because when you are on the sideline you observe things more like a coach than you would a player."

Waite noted that what Simpson learned in the spring is being carried onto the court this season.

"She is much more consistent [this year]. She had more highs and lows last year," Waite said. "She had some great games and then had some matches where she was down and struggling at bit."

Simpson's volleyball IQ, according to Waite, has skyrocketed recently.

"She is much more open to learning," Waite said. "She is accomplishing a couple of those things she has been working on for a couple of years."

Besides being more consistent this year, the biggest difference in Simpson's game is her aptness to go on the offensive attack.

"Passing has a lot to do with [me becoming more offensive]," Simpson said. "I think that it is just a confidence factor, and I'm getting more comfortable with throwing the ball down."

Simpson's improved play this year has caused her to gain some national recognition. After leading the Badgers to victories over Penn State and Ohio State Halloween weekend, Simpson was named both Big Ten Player of the Week and Sports Imports/AVCA Division I Player of the Week.

On the weekend, Simpson averaged 15.17 assists per game along with 1.67 blocks, 1.83 digs and 1.17 kills per game. Yet Simpson still passes the credit to her teammates.

"It was definitely exciting [to win those awards]," she said. "I wasn't really expecting it. It was such a team effort that I really felt that it could be anyone on our team. Our passing was great. Our hitters were on fire, but I'll take it. I'm honored."

However, Waite is quick to give credit where credit is due.

"I think Simpson took a big step up in her game. Her confidence on the court, her composure, her decision-making," Waite said. "She's just dishing the ball out to the hitters so evenly that it's really tough for the opponents right now."

Part of Simpson's success can be attributed to the coaches she has worked with since coming to Wisconsin. Both assistant coaches, Rod Wilde and Colleen Bayer, were setters at the collegiate and national level.

"[Simpson's] had some great setting coaches," Waite said. "They each take a different vision as far at what she needs to work on. Sometimes it's footwork. Sometimes it's hand position. Sometimes it's strategy. They both have great experience … she can't get any better setting coaching anywhere in the country."

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