Ugly sweep for Badgers

first_imgThe University of Wisconsin volleyball team received a reality check over the weekend.Wisconsin didn’t lose a match, defeating both Illinois (30-16, 28-30, 30-22, 30-19) and Northwestern (30-23, 30-19, 24-30, 29-31, 15-13), but prior to this weekend, the 10th-ranked Badgers hadn’t lost a single game in the Field House all season.So, when the Wildcats took them to five games Friday and after the Illini stole another game Saturday, it came as somewhat of a shock. “They got a reminder that the game doesn’t come that easily all the time, that you still have to bring that energy, especially on those nights when it’s not totally there,” UW head coach Pete Waite said.Wisconsin jumped out to a quick start against Illinois Saturday, taking the first game 30-16 but coughed up the second game.The Badgers kept most of game two close, but miscommunication led to some costly errors. Late in the game, back-to-back set errors gave the Illini a 28-25 lead and ultimately a 30-28 victory.However, the disappointing loss didn’t affect Wisconsin as the team came out of the locker room looking to put the next two games and the match away.”We came together and shook it off,” sophomore outside hitter Audra Jeffers said. “We just said, ‘There’s two more to play, let’s get out there and clean up our passing, our serving and we’ll win.'”Jeffers posted 13 kills on 18 attempts with no errors for a career-high .722 hitting percentage as Wisconsin had a well-balanced scoring attack. Freshman outside hitter Brittney Dolgner recorded a match-high 17 kills while senior outside hitter Maria Carlini chipped in with 14 of her own. Middle blockers Amy Bladow and Taylor Reineke also had nine and eight, respectively.Wisconsin’s hitters attributed their ability to score to junior setter Jackie Simpson, who served up 50 assists on the night.”Setting was great, and that comes with great passing,” Jeffers said.For Simpson, the great passing — Wisconsin didn’t allow a single service ace — made setting almost effortless.”Our passing is doing a great job back there so that makes my job easy,” Simpson said.After taking the third game 30-22, the Badgers found themselves struggling once again, down by as many as five points. But following a timeout, Wisconsin was able to capitalize on an 11-point run, winning the match 30-19.Waite said no specific game plan or strategy was mulled over in the timeout, just simply playing with the attitude the Badgers have had in their current seven-match winning streak.”It’s about fighting and battling and getting it one point at a time and chipping away at the lead,” Waite said of his timeout speech. “And they did that, and they are always capable of it. Once they kick it into gear, they do some great things.”High-five victoryFriday night against Northwestern, Wisconsin looked like it would keep its momentum rolling, winning the first two games 30-23 and 30-19. However, the Wildcats clawed back to win the following two games to push the match to five games.”I don’t know why, but it was a struggle for us,” Waite said. “We did not play the way we have been playing.”I think a number of players did not bring their best game to the court tonight,” he added. “I think we were carried by some clutch, clutch plays by a freshman, Brittney Dolgner. She really saved us.”The Badgers desperately needed Dolgner to explode in the final game, finding themselves down by three points for most of the contest.While Wisconsin switched sides down 5-8, the thought of a potential upset wasn’t nerve-racking for any of the Badger players.”As a setter, I don’t have time to be nervous,” Simpson said. “I feel that in the game of volleyball, if you take one second to start worrying about something, that’s when you get in trouble.”Wisconsin (21-5, 12-3 Big Ten) is currently in a second-place tie with Minnesota, one and a half games behind conference leader Penn State.last_img read more