When Laura Abbinante (now Wakeham) came to Wisconsin in 1993, she was one of the top-ranked setters in the country as a prep. She left UW in 1996 as one of the top setters in Badger history. The Itasca, Ill., native earned second-team All-America honors in 1996, only the second UW player to be named to the national honor team.
A four-year starter at setter, Abbinante established the UW career record for assists with 5,833, a record she still holds. She also ranks among the top all-time players in service aces, digs and blocks. The 5-9 Abbinante was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and two-time AVCA all-region honoree. She earned 11 all-tournament honors in her career.
As the Badgers setter, Abbinante led the UW to three NCAA tournament appearances, including a regional showing in 1996, and the 1995 National Invitational Volleyball Championship title.
She graduated from the UW in 1998 with a bachelors degree in exercise physiology. She played overseas one season and also coached at Michigan State University for two years. She currently lives in Irvine, Calif., with her husband Greg and children Jack (4), Tommy (3) and Will (2). The Wakehams are expecting their fourth child, a girl, in December.
What have you been doing since graduating and where are you living and working now
I played professional volleyball for one season in Holland (1998-99). I was an assistant coach at Michigan State for two seasons (1999-2000). I married Greg Wakeham in 2000 and moved to Southern California at the beginning of 2001. I received my teaching credential in science and health in 2003 and taught high school science (anatomy, physiology and general science) until 2005 and than quit teaching to be a stay-at-home mom, which is where I am now
Where did you play professionally What about your coaching career
I played in Ommen, The Netherlands, and had an amazing experience overseas. I was assistant coach at Michigan State for two seasons, and also coached high school volleyball here in Southern California for three seasons at Northwood High School in Irvine.
How did your academic experience and/or your degree from UW assist you in your chosen career
I felt like I really had some of the best teachers ever, especially my anatomy professors. When I became a science teacher (I actually taught anatomy), I would constantly reference my old notes and labs because I wanted my students to love science and enjoy themselves as much as I did when I was a student.
Did your experience in athletics influence you in your current vocation If so, how
It would be impossible for me to put into words all of the things I learned from being an athlete and being a part of a team. Athletics has influenced every part of my life from setting goals and following through on things, to holding myself accountable and standing up for and believing in myself.
What is your fondest memory as a student-athlete at Wisconsin
What was the best thing about being a Badger
There is no better place in the whole country to be a student-athlete than Madison, Wis. Madison has the best fans, the best support for female athletes, the Field House is the best place to compete and the spirit of the school is amazing. What more can I say
What was your favorite part of campus Where did you spend most of your time
Memorial Union Terrace, the lakes and State Street.
What advice would you give current student-athletes
Enjoy every moment and meet as many people as you can. You are so lucky to be a Badger!