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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Vanden Berg jumps right into Marquette volleyball

Photo by Katerina Pourliakas
Hannah Vanden Berg dives for a ball at the Al McGuire Center.

For many freshmen, the weeks before college consist of trips to Bed, Bath & Beyond, seeing high school friends and packing supplies for their dorm rooms.

But for Hannah Vanden Berg, it consisted of a trip to Barcelona instead of Bed, Bath & Beyond, meeting a dozen new teammates instead of seeing high school friends and packing for a two-week volleyball trip instead of dorm essentials.

Vanden Berg went straight from high school to Marquette volleyball’s foreign tour, visiting multiple European cities in two weeks and competing against some of the top teams on the continent in an entirely new system of play.

“It was kind of stressful coming right out of high school and going right into Europe,” Vanden Berg said. “But being there for two weeks, I was able to bond with a lot of players and feel more comfortable playing with them.”

Head coach Ryan Theis said he could tell Vanden Berg was exhausted, but she “never batted an eye, just smiled and had fun with it.”

Her ability to go with the flow is not exclusive to European trips, though. Since the tour, Vanden Berg has established herself as an important piece of the Marquette rotation, despite the amount of talent returned at her position: AVCA All-American Allie Barber, former 2018 All-West Coast Conference First Team honoree Kaitlyn Lines, 2017 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Hope Werch, senior Madeline Mosher and sophomore Ellie Koontz. 

On the court, Vanden Berg has made an immediate impact, stepping into an important role as a six-rotation outside hitter, and she has even earned starts early in the year, including against then-No. 13 Creighton.

“She can do everything,” Theis said. “She’s a real six-tool player when it comes to serve, pass, block, dig, attack, set. She’s been playing all the way around for a while, so she can do whatever and she’s really versatile.”

Vanden Berg said having so many talented hitters around her compels her to be better.

“Having them to push me really helps,” Vanden Berg said. “They’re all super good, so trying to keep up with them (helps me).”

Even though she set lofty expectations for herself as a freshman who can play every spot on the court, Theis said there are areas where she still needs work.

“She’s working on straightening her arms in her approach,” Theis said. “We’re working with her on opening up on her arm swing, passing, being aggressive in seams versus being passive, block setup and seeing hitters. All six of the skills, she’s trying to learn the way we do things.”

Vanden Berg’s older sister Ellen played collegiate volleyball at Valparaiso University, choosing the Indiana school over becoming a Golden Eagle. As a Crusader, she became an American Volleyball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-Midwest Region middle blocker.

Theis attributed Ellen’s recruitment as one of the main reasons why Hannah came to Marquette.

“(Ellen) was recruited by Marquette way back, two coaches ago,” Theis said. “Her family knew what Marquette was (as a result). Hannah wanted a high level of volleyball, and it was just kind of a really good fit.”

Vanden Berg hails from Little Chute, a small town in Wisconsin about two hours from Milwaukee and about half an hour from Green Bay. Theis said Vanden Berg and her relatives are the personification of a Northern Wisconsin family. 

“They run Little Chute. Her dad is the town mayor. He’s an attorney, but also the town mayor,” Theis said. “(Hannah’s) high school coach is also her athletic director who she babysat for.”

Theis said even though Hannah may appear quiet off the court, she is anything but shy when spending more time with her.

“She’s very funny. It just takes a little bit to get that out of her,” Theis said. “She’s pretty relaxed as an individual. But she’s actually really fun, and you don’t learn that about her until she opens up.”

Off the court, Vanden Berg said she loves the camaraderie of the team.

“The bonds we have with everyone (is my favorite part off the court),” Vanden Berg said. “Outside of volleyball, we’re still always hanging out with each other, and that’s really cool.”

Moving forward, Vanden Berg has a simple goal.

“Just continue to win,” Vanden Berg said.

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