Ashburn Wisconsin

Izzy Ashburn in action during one of Wisconsin's non-conference matches (Photo: Wisconsin)

Depth is a big factor in such a competitive conference as Big Ten women’s volleyball and defending champions Wisconsin will again try to make the most of the high amount of quality they have everywhere in their squad, especially at setter.

Repeating the formula that led them to a conference title last year, head coach Kelly Sheffield is once again having not one, but two setters running the team’s offense in graduate student Izzy Ashburn and senior MJ Hammill.

  • Watch the Big Ten Volleyball matches live on VBTV.

Wisconsin will start their Big Ten campaign on Friday, against Northwestern on the road, at 19:00 local time (00:00 UTC, Saturday), and the match will be streamed live for VBTV subscribers around the world.

With two excellent setters available for selection, Sheffield decided to take advantage of the ability to make 12 substitutions per set and being able to bring players in and out multiple times every set to implement a 6-2 playing system, which allows Wisconsin to have three hitters at the net and a setter at the backcourt at all times.

Hammill Wisconsin

Senior MJ Hammill is one of the two setters in Wisconsin's system (Photo: Wisconsin)

The system proved to be pretty effective last season, with Ashburn tallying 713 assists and Hammill 485, and is up to an excellent start this year too, with the setters getting 206 and 172 assists during the Badgers’ non-conference matches.

“Last season I was learning how to run a 6-2 and how to find a new flow on the court going on and off every three rotations and coming from cold to go on,” Ashburn said. “That’s huge for MJ and me this year. We’re a lot more comfortable with the flow of the game and communicating with each other about a different strategy or what we see from the sidelines, which is really cool perspective to have. It’s going to be really special for us to keep growing on this 6-2 and running the offense together.”

Sheffield’s decision to trust his two setters to run the team together also created an environment of collaboration and cooperation between the two, instead of a situation in which Ashburn and Hammill would be competing for a single spot in the team’s lineup.

“We work together a lot,” Ashburn added. “It's great in training but more in games. We'll share information, we'll learn throughout the games, we'll watch film together, we'll help each other out at practice, we'll go to the gym together, just us. It really is just a little team between me and her, our little hands team together, and I think it really does optimize using the scouting that we do before games and allowing us to change that as the game continues on to put our hitters in the best situation possible.”

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