Jill Odenthal turned in one of the best matches of her UW volleyball career when it counted. The 6-0 right-side hitter tallied a career-high 25 kills to lead the 22nd-ranked Badgers to a 3-2 win over No. 2 Hawaii in the 2004 NCAA Regional semifinals. Odenthals performance helped her earn third-team All-America honors that season.
A four-year starter, Odenthal ended her UW career ranked ninth on the UW all-time list with 1,246 kills and fourth in hitting percentage at .292. The Badgers advanced to the NCAA tournament all four years of her career and won the 2001 Big Ten Conference title. Odenthal was a 2003 All-Big Ten and all-region honoree and earned honorable mention honors on both teams in 2004. She was a four-time all-tournament selection and was named to the 2001 Big Ten All-Freshman team.
Academically, Odenthal was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and four-time member of the deans list.
What have you been doing since graduating and where are you living and working now
After finishing my career as a Badger, I dedicated my last year and a half toward finishing my degree requirements and taking time to study abroad. I graduated in 2006 with a bachelors degree in genetics and took a year off to work at Third Wave technologies here in Madison (a medical device company) while I waited for my fiance, UW track and field athlete Michael Sracic, to graduate. We were both lucky enough to get into graduate school here at UW. Since 2007, I have been at UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. I have just recently passed my Step 1 USMLE boards and am officially a third-year medical student. Currently, I am rotating throughout the state of Wisconsin working through core clerkships like surgery and pediatrics and will be looking to enter a residency program in about two years. Michael is in the Ph.D. program in the School of Engineering under Professor Matthew Allen. We were married in 2008 and couldnt be happier.
Where you ever interested in playing professionally or did you know you wanted to continue your academics
I had thought about playing professionally after finishing as a Badger, especially since I enjoyed studying abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy, so much. However, I knew that I wanted to pursue medical school for some time and have a family as well. Medical education takes about seven to 10 years to complete, so I figured the sooner I started the better! I miss volleyball and do continue playing in different leagues in Madison and occasionally playing with any other former Badgers when they are in town.
How did your academic experience from UW assist you in your chosen career
My academic experience laid the foundation for everything that has followed. The genetics department at UW is one of the top in the world and it was a huge factor that drew me to Madison. While I opted to pursue medicine instead of another graduate degree, the experiences I had on campus were fundamental in making me into the student and person that I am. I will always be grateful for each professor, classmate, teammate and friend I made at UW, as all have been instrumental in helping me get where I am.
Why did you decide to come back to Wisconsin for medical school
Madison has an excellent reputation as an institution for medical education. The professors are some of the top minds in their fields. I have friends from undergrad in my classes, so having some familiar faces around was an incentive to come here. Having my husband able to attend grad school at the same institution was another.
Did your experience in athletics influence you in your current vocation If so, how
Absolutely! Studying and practicing medicine takes as much drive, focus and passion as playing a collegiate sport. My experience at UW taught me how to push for excellence in a way that nothing else could. In addition, being a Badger has taught me to be a team player and to trust my colleagues. Teamwork is a fundamental aspect of medical care. I also have the advantage of being able to use volleyball to give me a break from my studies and enjoy the sport all over again. I think that I will have a life-long interest in self improvement that is directly the result of being a Badger.
What is your fondest memory as a student-athlete at Wisconsin
Its almost too hard to decide. There were a lot of great memories and a lot of great teammates. Winning the Big Ten my freshman year was unforgettable! Some of the big matches we played in for example Hawaii and Minnesota in 2004 as well as Penn State in 2002 are moments I will never forget. Not to mention, I think I got to play with some of the best teammates anyone could ask for.
What was the best thing about being a Badger
The fans and the team! I couldnt have asked for more passionate fans or a more dedicated team. The Badgers have a proud tradition that I have always been honored to be a part of.
What was your favorite part of campus Where did you spend most of your time
My favorite part of campus is Allen Centennial Garden by the Lakeshore dorms (followed closely by the Memorial Union Terrace). Unfortunately, I dont get to spend much time there. I practically live at the Health Sciences Learning Center at the UW Hospital. Its a beautiful building and you should come and check it out if you get a chance.
What advice would you give current student-athletes
Appreciate every minute the good and the bad. Each experience will change you for the better, as long as you are willing to look at it the right way. Time goes by quickly, so make the most of every moment. Also, thank the fans at every opportunity. I can honestly say they are the best around!