The freshmen at the University of Wisconsin are here to play. All across the board, young Badgers are making immediate impacts in their respective sports. Jonathan Taylor, Sydney Hilley, Dana Rettke and Griffin Barela are each paving their own way, and making their own names here in Madison.
Jonathan Taylor: Football
In Camp Randall, running back Johnathan Taylor has taken the reins. Usually dominant, the Badgers struggled a bit with their run game last year, but Taylor is looking to change that.
He already has 438 rushing yards in just three games, including one 128-yard game and a 223-yard game. He is currently averaging 8.3 yards per carry. Taylor follows a long succession of talented New Jersey running backs that have made a name for themselves in Wisconsin.
Heisman winner Ron Dayne, and Badger star Corey Clement both grew up within an hour of Taylor’s hometown of Salem, New Jersey. Taylor originally committed to play for Rutgers, but ultimately decided Wisconsin would offer him the best chance to compete for Big Ten championships.
It seems Taylor made the right decision. If he remains healthy, he and the Badgers will have the opportunities to accomplish their goals.
Sydney Hilley: Volleyball
Over in the Field House, two freshman volleyball players are making waves. Setter Sydney Hilley and middle blocker Dana Rettke have thus far lead the Badgers to an impressive start to the season. Sydney Hilley was a highly touted recruit coming into Wisconsin.
She was the No. 3 prospect in the nation and the No. 1 player at her position. Her commitment to the Badgers is in part what allowed Wisconsin to have the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation.
Hilley has been described by head coach Kelly Sheffield and her teammates as one of those players who strives to make everyone around her better. Hilley had big shoes to fill at the setter position. The role was recently occupied by four-time All-American, Lauren Carlini who after spending the summer playing with the United States women’s national team, is playing professionally in Italy.
Hilley graduated early from high school and enrolled at the university for spring semester to have the opportunity to train with Carlini. Ultimately, she is trying to be the best Sydney Hilley she can be, and so far, she seems to be doing a good job.
Dana Rettke: Volleyball
Dana Rettke towers over most people at the university and on her team. Standing at 6-foot-8, she is the tallest female athlete in Wisconsin history. Rettke was the No. 8 recruit coming into college, and she is certainly making her presence known. Rettke also enrolled at Wisconsin a semester early so she and Hilley could work on the imperative connection between setters and middle blockers.
Rettke also had big shoes to fill on the volleyball court. Haleigh Nelson was a four-year starter and All-American who is now spending her last year of academic eligibility playing sand volleyball at LSU. Before Rettke arrived at Wisconsin, Sheffield considered redshirting her, but that idea clearly went out the door when he realized how dominant she is on the court.
Because of her size and athleticism, teams have a hard time slowing her down. Rettke has proved herself as an important part of the Wisconsin volleyball squad.
Griffin Barela: Men’s golf
Griffin Barela is a freshman golf player who came into Wisconsin as the No. 58 golfer in the country and the No. 1 golfer in his home state of Colorado. Before arriving in Madison he had six top-10 finishes and playing in the U.S. Junior, and head coach Michael Burin predicted Barela would have a smooth transition into colligate golf. Sure enough, he has.
The men’s golf team opened their season for the Badger Invitational at University Ridge Golf Course where they finished fifth as a team. Barela finished eighth overall after shooting three subpar rounds, which earned him Big Ten golfer of the week. He was the first Badger to earn this award since Jack Watson in April 2015. Additionally, he is only the second Wisconsin freshman to accomplish this feat.
Barela is just one of eight Wisconsin men’s golfers to do this. Thus far, Barela is off to a hot start, and his team will continue to look to him as a consistent source of success.
The freshman class of 2021 came into UW ready to make an impact, and across the board they are putting on shows and giving impressive performances in each of their respective sports.