JAKE NAUGHTON/Herald photoFor sophomore outside hitter Brittney Dolgner, volleyball is a family affair. Both of her older sisters played at the collegiate level, and now, her younger sister has stepped into her shoes as the left outside hitter at Waupun High School in Waupun, Wis. “She is still trying to catch up to me, which is really cute,” Dolgner said.The family tradition of playing volleyball is what attracted Dolgner to begin playing in fourth grade. She said going to her older sisters’ high school matches and seeing the energy the crowd brought to the game is what made the game exciting and interesting for her.“I loved watching it, loved going to state and loved traveling,” Dolgner said. “I just loved the game.”Dolgner, who led Waupun High School to four consecutive state titles, is long gone from her prep glory days. Last year, Dolgner became the first freshman in Wisconsin history to be named All Big Ten. She also led the team in kills with 461, averaging 4.12 per game.This year, she leads the eighth-ranked Wisconsin volleyball team and the Big Ten in kills, averaging 4.84 per game. She has stepped up her pace during an eight match double digit kills streak, averaging 5.39 kills per game. Against No. 2 Penn State, Dolgner notched 27 kills. “Brit is an awesome athlete,” co-captain Taylor Reineke said. “She jumps through the roof.”Dolgner came to Wisconsin as one of the highest recruited players in the state. She was a three-time Mizuno All-American and 2005 PrepVolleyball.com player of the year. But she said there was no real external pressure to perform.“It was all for myself because I had high expectations and I wanted to do well,” Dolgner said. “Coming in, I didn’t want to let my team down and let my family down.”As a freshman, Dolgner made 31 starts in 33 matches and played in 112 games. Though she started right away, she had to adapt to the speed of the college game. “The first game I out, against Texas, I was terrified,” Dolgner said. “But I came out, made a couple of digs, and I’m like: ‘I can do this; this isn’t so bad.’”Now more than a year removed from her Badger debut, Dolgner says her goal is to become a well-rounded player; she wants to become a better blocker and get more digs per game, which she said comes with time and watching older teammates.“Taylor [Reineke], Audra [Jeffers] and Jackie [Simpson] are great blockers, and [I have to] just watch their fundamentals and techniques,” Dolgner said.Head coach Pete Waite agrees that she needs to improve on her blocking and defense but says her offensive ability is great.“She finds ways to score in the front row and the back row,” Waite said. “And there have been times this year when she has carried a big load for us.”So far this season, Dolgner is on pace to not only have more blocks this year, but also to have more kills. Halfway through the season, she already has 295 kills and 40 blocks.Dolgner attributes her improvement to the support of her teammates. She said even when she makes errors in games or in practice, her teammates tell her not to worry about it and move on to the next play. According to Waite, she works hard in practice, but is also able to enjoy the game.“Especially match time, she really cranks it up a notch,” he said. “Some players are going hard all the time, but they don’t have another level to take it to. She is able to, and really elevate above the rest.”It is Dolgner’s temperament and attitude toward that game that has made her successful and a great teammate.“She’s just funny and goofy, and she makes you laugh,” Reineke said. “It’s easy to feel comfortable around her. I think that’s important in a teammate.” Dolgner’s personal performance is not only important for the team now, but for the future as well. She is part of a sophomore class, which includes outside hitters Caity DuPont and Katherine Dykstra, that will prove to be the nucleus of the team in years to come.“We are glad they will be around for a while because we will be losing a lot of players out of this senior class,” Waite said. “They will really have to step up next year and lead the team.”They already have shown great promise, as Dolgner, Dykstra and DuPont account for almost half of the team’s 1,102 kills and half of the team’s 220 total blocks. For now, though, Dolgner does not have to worry about taking charge. Instead she can concentrate on being a contributor to the team and, more importantly, tending to family matters like helping her younger sister, Brandi, become yet another star Dolgner on the court.
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Groups are IN! The #WorldGotGame! #FIBAWC starts on August 31 2019!A post shared by FIBA Basketball World Cup (@fibawc) on Mar 16, 2019 at 5:00am PDTThe Dominican Republic, Germany and Jordan will compete in Group G – taking place in the same location as the draw – Shenzhen. The draw obviously provides the opportunity or project forward. Germany will likely provide the biggest competition for France, having only met in a World Cup once before – in 2006 with France winning 75-73. Interestingly, looking across all competitions, France have lost their last two competitive encounters against Germany, despite having won the previous four. But in this article we will also look back at qualification to see what we can learn from these games and the momentum the national team will head to China with.QualificationFrance secured its spot at the 2019 FIBA World Cup with a record of 10-2 during the qualifying period. The team sits third in the international world rankings, but where it will finish at the FIBAWC is not as clear cut. After the 2016 Olympics, perhaps the country’s best player ever, Tony Parker, retired from the international game. On top of this, Boris Diaw woke up to smell the coffee on his career, hanging up his Jumpman branded national jersey for good after becoming the joint most capped player for the country.Despite these losses, the national squad has continued to maintain solid depth, and its position in the world rankings means that the team remains a threat. Thanks to contributions from Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo, as well as the qualifying round’s regular performers Andrew Albicy and Paul Lacombe, the third ranked team in the world has managed to develop the next generation and secure a spot at the World Cup with relative ease.A big part of their success has been thanks to good teamwork – France completed the qualifying stage as the best assisting team in the competition – and a variety of offensive contributions – 18 different players scored at least 10 points in one game during the qualifiers. And that comes down to the solid coaching duties of Vincent Collet.November 2017: a solid startThe first half of the opening match against Belgium didn’t look positive as the French went into the second half 13 points down. But the energy of Andrew Albicy on the defensive glass and the focus of Edwin Jackson on offense helped France claw its way back into the game, then Boris Diaw checked in to keep the ball moving to build a lead.The Belgians unravelled and the final score of 70-59 was possibly not all that representative of how the game had been played.Still, there were positive signs for France. It is, after all, never an easy road to the FIBA World Cup. And the team was able to put a few wrongs right a few days later against Bosnia and Herzgonvina. It was a more straightforward affair, and while the scoreline didn’t get out of reach for much of the game, France never looked like it was under threat. A balanced attack saw Jackson create some beautiful plays while Louis Labeyrie scored 13 with 7 rebounds and a pair of assists.February 2018: a tougher challengeThe other top 10 team in Group E travelled from Russia to France in February. The tough match-up required a cool head, someone who had been in big-game situation: a veteran to take control. At 35-years-old, Diaw had given his best days to the game of basketball and didn’t have many big performances left. The previous summer he had finished his job in the NBA with the Utah Jazz, and he had joined French side Levallois Metropolitans for a final season playing in his home country and for the national team.Russia was on a good run of form, having won the first two games of the tournament handily. Against France, it was a defensive slugfest, to the point where the game had to go to overtime, but this is when the big man took over. Diaw had shot 3 of 5 from the field in the opening four quarters, and he finished the game with 7 assists, having spent a lot of it in his rebounding-passing role. However, in the extra frame, he made 3 of his 4 shots – including 2 three-pointers – to secure the player-of-the-game honours and a one-point victory on home soil.With that win in the bag, France focused on Belgium again, but this time made light work of their opponents. With the French being led by the 7’2 Moustapha Fall, the Belgians simply couldn’t match the size and physicality of 26-year-old. While he went a perfect 10 for 10 from the field, Fall showed his Shaq-like ability by hitting just 3 of his 11 free throws for 23 points.June and July 2018: maintaining momentumIn the final window of France’s Group E games, the country showed no signs of slowing down. It opened proceedings against Bosnia and Herzegovina with ease, especially as it was the off-season for most professional basketball leagues and the national squad boasted some of its best players. Fall received fewer minutes in a supporting role behind Utah Jazz big-man Rudy Gobert, who powered the team forward by scoring 16 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. Other NBA stars joined the ranks, but starters Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier took a back seat in the scoring column to a young center who plays for Baskonia in Spain, Vincent Poirier, and a former San Antonio Spurs guard, now CSKA Moscow star, Nando De Colo, who finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively.The second game was against Russia. De Colo continued to stand out, but the French needed Fournier to bring his A-game, and Head Coach Vincent Collet found equal time for his shooting guards as they scored 15 each. While the 84-78 win in Russia meant that France had achieved a perfect run in Group E, it meant something extra special to the team, as it would be the final one of Boris Diaw’s career.This last hurrah was the 247th French national team appearance for Diaw, and even that number had significance – being the same, record number of basketball caps his mother, Élisabeth Riffiod, achieved for France. He said, while announcing his retirement on a boat, surrounded by his longtime friends and former national teammates Tony Parker and Ronny Turiaf: “The fact that I’ve tied my mom’s number of caps, it was a huge accomplishment. I’ve always thought it was unreachable. And the fact that I’ve finally made it, it was unbelievable for me. And in a certain way, I don’t want to beat this record. I don’t want to do better than my mom. I reached 247 caps. With respect to what she’s done in her career, if it’s just to get a few more with no reason, there is no need to go beyond. And with respect to my mom and what she has achieved, I’d like to stop at 247 appearances with the French national team.”And with that, Diaw sailed off in to the horizon.September 2018: Group KThe loss of France’s talisman threw the national team off its stride in the first window of Group K, especially with some of the NBA players heading back to the United States for training camp. The opening game was against the weakest team in the group, Bulgaria, and despite being ranked 47th in the world, they made the most of a good home crowd and a diminished French side to claim the victory. Nicolas Batum was still present and took on the scoring load with 17 points, and guards Paul Lacombe and Edwin Jackson reached double figures, but with Rudy Gobert and Boris Diaw missing, the big-man duties fell to new starter Moustapha Fall. In just 12 minutes, he grabbed 2 rebounds and scored 2 points, being unable to keep up with the shorter, quicker Bulgarians.A few days later, France bounced back on home soil against Finland. Fall was removed from the starting line-up and managed just 4 minutes of playing time. He was replaced with Mathias Lessort, a 6’9 center that can run the floor and recover on defense who plays his professional game in Spain for Unicaja Baloncesta. His energy paid dividends, as the 23-year-old managed 13 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists plus 3 steals and 2 blocks in just 21 minutes. Most of his points came from early post-ups and hustle plays, but he provided a bright young spark for a team looking to replace some of what was lost without Diaw.November and December 2018: Lacombe shinesWith most professional leagues around the world in full swing, the pre-Christmas competition window saw most teams competing without their leading players. France was relying on a mix of young talent and reliable players with some international experience, but one former bit-part player was beginning to earn a regular spot in the rotation was Paul Lacombe.Becoming known as a strong defensive presence with a great nose for steals, Lacombe had been regularly posting strong efficiency numbers and solid plus-minus stats throughout much of the qualifying stages. One of the best all-round performances of his 10-game run came against the Czech Republic, when he scored 15, grabbed 3 rebounds, assisted twice, and went for three steals in 26 minutes after getting the start. The man that led the team in points was Amath M’Baye, the 29-year-old forward playing with Virtus Bologna in Italy, who scored 18 to help France secure another win away from home.A revenge game against Bulgaria took place back on home soil, and it saw the French embarrass the visitors with a 25-point drubbing. While Lacombe took a back seat in the scoring category, he dished out 7 assists and grabbed 6 rebounds to go with 2 more steals, while setting up players like Mathias Lessort and another youngster, shooting guard Yakuba Ouattara, who finished with 17 points on 8 of 9 shots.February 2019: the next generationWith no NBA-level talent present and many other elite EuroLeague players unavailable, Coach Collet opted to get run for some first-time players to find out what other options he had.One youngster that gathered attention after earning a starting spot against Finland was Theo Maledon. He only logged 15 minutes and hoisted up two threes, but at just 17, many are touting Maledon as a key cog in the future of France’s basketball programme. International basketball is in the midst of a transitional era for several teams. Argentina is down to just one former Olympic champion on its national roster, Spain may not have either Gasol brother for much longer, Germany has been without its greatest ever player for a few years, and France is in a similar situation. At the FIBAWC live draw, the French national team learned of its opponents in the First Round. The World CupLooking towards the finals, Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum will likely lead the roster, with strong support from Nando De Colo, Edwin Jackson, Louis Labeyrie and Andrew Albicy. There are fringe players that might offer more upside and a good level of talent, but the likes of good role players such as Mathias Lessort and the do-anything glue-guy that is Paul Lacome could provide stability and a lack of ego, which has ruined many deep teams in the past.It will be unusual to see France without so many familiar faces, but the country could still put together a squad with the kind of talent and depth that hasn’t been seen since Spain and Argentina forced the USA to change its approach toward international competition.While the French are ranked third in the world, it is difficult to say whether they will be the true third seed while travelling to China in August and September. Some of the players that helped France reach the World Cup will no longer be present, but if the qualifying rounds are anything to go by, this team has several players that offer greater potential than the previous generation ever had. It will be on the new group of leaders to respond if the country wants to live up to its FIBA ranking. https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/1b/42/theo-maledon-fiba-france_2bddoxkldjkf1wzwqkxndwdqr.jpg?t=-1681678919&w=500&quality=80 The game was lost, but power forward Amina Noua showed what he is capable of with an all-round game amounting to 19 points in just 21 minutes: 2 of 5 from three, perfect from the line, and 5 of 6 from inside the arc.The final game of the qualifying stage saw France hand Czech Republic a 16-point defeat, courtesy of another great game by the young rim-runner Mathias Lessort. The 23-year-old didn’t miss a field goal on his way to 18 points and 10 rebounds. The game also saw Maledon show more of what he is capable of. There were times in his 18 minutes that the teen looked reminiscent of another speedy teenager by the name of Tony Parker. Maledon has a better outside shot than Parker did at 17, as well as great length on the defensive end – the raw materials are there to be a bright spark. He might not make the final squad for the World Cup based on his performances during the qualifying stage, but at some point the keys to the French engine will be fully handed over to the Asvel Basket guard. View this post on Instagram