Team Player: Janelle Gabrielsen
With three older sisters named Jessica, Jolene, and Jamie, and parents Jeff and Jill, it’s no wonder everybody who knows Janelle Gabrielsen x’12 drops the J and calls her “Nellie.”
The UW’s senior setter has been making a name for herself in sports since high school, where she was a nationally recognized four-year varsity player in basketball and volleyball. Though in high school she primarily played middle hitter (a position responsible for blocking opponents’ shots), the UW coaches saw untapped potential in her athletic versatility, sure-handedness, on-court intensity, and proven team leadership — qualities of a talented setter, the player who orchestrates the team’s offense.
Once Gabrielsen arrived on campus, head coach Pete Waite wasted no time getting her game action. She started twenty-six matches her freshman year, playing both hitter and setter in the team’s 6-2 offense, in which two players split setting duties. After the season, she began training to run the team in a 5-1 offense and has started all fifty-nine matches as the new offense’s sole setter.
“Setter is pretty important, because you touch every single ball,” says the two-time Academic All-Big Ten Badger. “You have to be able to run plays that all the hitters will be able to hit, watch the other team’s defense, and figure out plays.”
Last season, she ranked seventh in the Big Ten with 10.35 assists (hits that enable a teammate to score) per set and tallied a career-best sixty-three assists versus Iowa. She’s determined to get the Badgers into the NCAA tournament in her final season, which is no easy feat in a competitive Big Ten conference that saw eight teams make the field in 2010. But with four highly touted recruits joining the team and productive, motivated off-season training, Gabrielsen is sure the Badgers are poised to break out.
“We need to improve every single game if we want to play in the NCAA tournament,” she says. “I love the game, I love being competitive, and I love challenges. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Published in the Summer 2011 issue