Vanden Berg ready for future of Marquette volleyball

Vanden+Berg+hits+during+a+match+against+Iowa+State+University+on+Feb.+27+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics%29.

Vanden Berg hits during a match against Iowa State University on Feb. 27 (Photo Courtesy of Marquette Athletics).

In a year full of challenges, hardships and all the highs and lows in between, the Marquette volleyball team was faced with numerous obstacles during its 2020-21 season. 

Despite cancellations and the quarantine periods, Marquette finished its season with a 10-4 record and a run in the BIG EAST Championship match against Creighton University.

“In the end it was hard not making the NCAA Tournament and obviously this year was very weird, a lot of uncontrollable (factors),” sophomore outside hitter Hannah Vanden Berg said. “But I think we handled that pretty well and I think that moving forward we have that chip on our shoulder and everyone returning so I think we are going to use this at our advantage moving for this season into next.” 

Vanden Berg built up her resume this season. The 6-foot-2 hitter finished second in kills for the team with 124 and hit .214. She started in all 51 sets over the 14-match schedule and added nine service aces, 65 digs and 21 blocks. 

“She can score points,” head coach Ryan Theis said. “She makes some defensive plays. She’s immensely improved from her freshman to sophomore year and she’s what’s going on the side of the net. She is learning the game and significantly improving.” 

The Little Chute, Wisconsin native has been making improvements since the beginning of her career at Marquette. In her first-year campaign in 2019 she was named to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team, posted 222 kills, 163 digs and 41 blocks. 

Through the two seasons Vanden Berg has had as a Golden Eagle, she has been a key player in many areas around the court, which Theis believes will only keep getting better. 

“She (has) stepped up when it was her time, balls go to her and she produces. From her accepting the scholarship offer to watching her play as an 18-year-old to stepping up with injuries her freshman year,” Theis said. “We expect big things out of her, and she’ll bring them. Her head is in the first place. She just takes everything in stride.” 

This season Vanden Berg recorded double-digit kills in five consecutive matches from Feb. 25 against St. Louis to April 2 against St. John’s in the BIG EAST Conference semifinals match. Her playing contribution helped the Golden Eagles sweep St. John’s, which led to MU advancing to the conference championship game against Creighton April 3. Vanden Berg credited her teammates for the successes she had on the court this season.

“We relied on each other and trusted each other,” Vanden Berg said. “We all knew we could do it, we all knew we could do it. Putting that trust together and knowing that (we) will do our parts really helped.” 

Vanden Berg’s niche and talents for volleyball also can be attributed to her calm and collected personality.

“The staff would all say this about her, I don’t have daughters, I have three sons,” Theis said. “But if I had a daughter, I would want one as mellow and laid back as Hannah. Things are not going to bother her, and I cannot say that about three of our boys.”

Although Marquette missed a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2010 season, Vanden Berg said the team is using it to their advantage looking ahead to next season. 

“We are working on anything we can work on in these few months we have to train before next season, it’s (going to be) a quick turnaround,” Vanden Berg said. “(I am) just excited for what’s to come and learning from this past season.”

As the Golden Eagles get prepared for the quick turnaround to the fall season, one thing the squad has to their advantage is that everyone is expected to come back and use the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA granted due to COVID-19

Among these players returning next year are graduate student middle blocker Savannah Rennie, graduate student right side hitter and setter Taylor Wolf, senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Lines and senior outside hitter Hope Werch.

“It’s amazing,” Vanden Berg said. “It’s great everyone is coming back, we are comfortable with each other, we know how to work with each other. That’s a good upper hand we have going into next season.”

This story was written by Molly Gretzlock. She can be reached at Molly.gretzlock@marquette.edu or on Twitter @MollyGretzlock.