The Wisconsin volleyball roster is a list with 17 roster spots; six freshmen, five sophomores and four juniors take up 15 of them.
In those remaining roster slots, you will find the names of the two lone seniors on this year’s squad: Janelle Gabrielsen and Elle Ohlander.
The two senior captains for head coach Pete Waite’s team are winding down their collegiate careers in impressive manners, as both seniors are currently shining brightly for the Badgers.
While both are succeeding on the court, the two captains have a friendship that first began when they were just freshmen in 2008.
“I noticed that [Elle] was a lot like me,” Gabrielsen said. “We’re both really calm and cool on the court, and we like to have fun out there. We have fun playing together, and we gel really well.”
And the similarities extend off the court, as well.
“I thought she was crazy,” Ohlander said. “We have very similar personalities, so we kind of feed off of each other.”
It’s a chemistry Waite saw from day one.
“The thing they both had in common was that they both had a great positive spirit in the way they went about things, which I thought was really important,” Waite said. “They came in and worked hard and had fun. It was something they brought to the team and helped loosen everyone up a bit.”
Gabrielsen is currently enjoying a historic senior campaign, as the setter recently eclipsed the 1,000 dig mark. Gabrielsen currently has 1,052 digs, along with 3,290 assists. Besides being seventh in Wisconsin history in career assists and ninth in digs, Gabrielsen is only the second Badger ever to have recorded 3,000 assists and 1,000 digs.
Gabrielsen is also a threat for a double-double every night. Gabrielsen currently has 10 double-doubles on the season, giving her 47 for her career. Gabrielsen also earned a triple-double against Duke this year, where the senior recorded 11 kills, 12 digs and 20 assists.
She has one other triple-double in her career as well; as a freshman in 2008, she recorded the first triple-double by a Badger since 1988 against Michigan.
“She’s well-rounded,” Waite said. “You find very few setters who can attack like she does. She’s got an amazing knack for blocking, and she’s a great server as well. She goes after any target I ask her to; she’s really given us a lot of strengths in a lot of areas.”
Gabrielsen looks to her basketball background as a reason for her multi-faceted game. Playing for Menomonee Falls in high school, Gabrielsen broke the school record for points and was named conference player of the year as a senior.
“When I was younger, I was a multi-sport athlete,” Gabrielsen said. “Being good at basketball and volleyball helped me with my athleticism, so I could play any position on the court.”
While Gabrielsen has enjoyed success on the court throughout the season, her fellow senior and captain Ohlander has found a different path to success.
As a freshman, Ohlander saw the most action, starting 28 of the 31 matches and ranking second on the team in hitting percentage and blocks. In each of the last three years, the middle blocker has seen her role on the court decrease, but the senior has always been ready to step in when the team needs her.
The best example of this always-ready mentality came Sunday, when the Badgers upset the then-No.6 Penn State Nittany Lions. Ohlander was called into the game in the first set and responded in a big way, electrifying the crowd with a kill and a service ace in two key plays that gave the Badgers their first lead of the entire set.
Ohlander went on to record three kills, two service aces and four blocks, playing major minutes in all five sets, helping spark the Badgers to the team’s first win over the Nittany Lions since 2006.
“You always have to be prepared to step in,” Ohlander said. “In practice, we mix up lineups all the time so it comes down to whoever’s ready on game day. I just want to play every point as hard as I can and have fun in the process. I know [Janelle] and I only have three weeks left minimum or a month and a half maximum, so that’s a short amount of time. We just want to do everything we can for this team and enjoy ourselves.”
Waite liked what he saw Sunday from Ohlander, and the performance may have earned the senior an extended role on the court in the upcoming future.
“For right now, she’s on the court and playing,” Waite said. “She brings a little bigger block to us, and the more time she has on the court, the better she’ll continue to get. I know she’s an extremely hard worker and wants to be out there.”
With the Badgers on the brink of an at-large tournament birth, the rest of the team is eager to send these two seniors off with a post-season run.
“We have to play for our seniors,” sophomore Annemarie Hickey said. “It’s their last year, and they want to go out with every win they can. They’re great leaders and fun to be on the court with. They’re such a big part of our team.”