Wisconsin's Dana Rettke Announced as Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year

Congrats to the three-time All-American!
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Earlier this week, Wisconsin named Dana Rettke as one of its two athletes of the year. Now she can add a conference accolade to an already impressive resume.

The Big Ten announced on Thursday that Rettke received its female athlete of the year honor. According to UW, she is the first Badger to claim this distinction since cross country and track and field standout Kathy Butler in 1997.

As the press release from Wisconsin states, Rettke claimed her third consecutive first-team All-America selection in 2019 and helped guide UW's volleyball program to last year's national championship game. The junior middle blocker also added Big Ten player of the year accolades to her resume after a season where she led the conference in blocks per set (1.45) and placed third and fifth in hitting percentage (.390) and kills per set (3.75), respectively.

“It is such an honor to be named Big Ten Athlete of the Year,” Rettke said in a statement. “Having the opportunity to play in this conference every day is something I will never take for granted. The competition is top notch, and there are so many amazing players, coaches and staff that make me a better athlete and person every day. Thank you to my teammates and coaches at Wisconsin for everything they have done. I truly cannot do anything without them. On, Wisconsin!”

As noted by UW in the release:

The Big Ten has recognized a Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year since 1982 and first honored a Female Athlete of the Year in 1983. The Big Ten Athletes of the Year are selected by a panel of conference media members, with one male and one female student-athlete nominated from each Big Ten institution to be considered for the honor.

Ohio State's Chase Young claimed the Big Ten's male athlete of the year award. Ron Dayne was the last Badger to hear his name called for that distinction in 2000.

Here is most of the press release from Wisconsin on Thursday, including comments from athletic director Barry Alvarez and volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield:

Rettke named Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year

Volleyball middle blocker first overall Badger winner since 2000 and first female since 1997

MADISON, Wis. — It’s an honor not seen at the University of Wisconsin in 23 years for a female student-athlete. On Thursday, the Big Ten Conference named Dana Rettke, a middle blocker for Wisconsin volleyball, as the conference’s Female Athlete of the Year.

Selected as Wisconsin’s Athlete of the Year along with fellow Badger Jonathan Taylor earlier this week, Rettke was further selected by the conference overall for her outstanding athletic performance this past year after leading the Badgers to both the Big Ten title and playing in the NCAA championship match.

“It is such an honor to be named Big Ten Athlete of the Year,” Rettke said. “Having the opportunity to play in this conference every day is something I will never take for granted. The competition is top notch, and there are so many amazing players, coaches and staff that make me a better athlete and person every day. Thank you to my teammates and coaches at Wisconsin for everything they have done. I truly cannot do anything without them. On, Wisconsin!”

Wisconsin’s last recipient of the Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year was Ron Dayne (football) in 2000, while the Badgers’ last female honoree was Kathy Butler (cross country and track and field) in 1997. In total, Badgers have won the honor seven times overall (once for men, six for women) with five individuals claiming the honor. See the full list below.

Additionally, Rettke is the first Big Ten volleyball student-athlete to win this honor since 2010 and only the fifth all-time.

The Big Ten has recognized a Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year since 1982 and first honored a Female Athlete of the Year in 1983. The Big Ten Athletes of the Year are selected by a panel of conference media members, with one male and one female student-athlete nominated from each Big Ten institution to be considered for the honor.

“I’m thrilled for Dana. She was certainly a key figure in our volleyball program’s run to not only the Big Ten title, but to the NCAA Championship match,” said Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin director of athletics “She has been a great representative of our entire university, on the court and in the classroom. I am proud of her and very happy she’s being recognized as the conference’s athlete of the year.”

One of the country’s best middle blockers, Rettke, a UW junior, helped lead the Badgers to the 2019 NCAA National Championship match and earned her third-consecutive selection as a first-team All-American (2017, 2018, 2019). The 2019 Big Ten Player of the Year, Rettke was also selected to both the 2019 NCAA Championship All-Tournament team and 2019 NCAA Regional All-Tournament team.

“There are a lot of big-time athletes in this conference. For Dana to earn this honor is quite impressive, especially considering it’s been 20 years since the last Badger has achieved it,” head volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield said.

An All-Big Ten selection, Rettke played and started all 32 matches and played in 110 sets. She led the Big Ten with 1.45 blocks per set, in addition to leading the Badgers and ranking third in the Big Ten with a .390 hitting percentage. She also led UW and ranked fifth in the conference with 3.75 kills per set, setting a single-season school record. Rettke recorded double-figure kills in 26 matches.

Rettke competed with the U.S. National Team during the summer of 2019, winning the Volleyball Nations League and qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She was a finalist for both the 2020 AAU James E. Sullivan Award and a 2019 Honda Award.