Badgers split pair of road games in first conference road trip

Kelli Bates led UW with 20 kills in Wisconsin's five set loss to Nebraska Saturday night. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

An undefeated nonconference season for the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (2-2 Big Ten, 11-2 overall) seemingly signaled a dominant start to Big Ten play. Losing only one set in the first nine matches, the Badgers had faced little adversity. The seniors and veteran players, however, know that success is not always guaranteed, especially when heading into the Big Ten. So far, that success has not been guaranteed, as Wisconsin’s perfect record has quickly become just .500 in conference play.

This weekend, the Badgers faced two of their Big Ten competitors, the Iowa Hawkeyes (1-2 Big Ten, 12-4 overall) and the No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0 Big Ten, 11-3 overall).

On Friday, the Badgers swept the Hawkeyes with scored of 25-17, 25-22 and 25-17. Wisconsin was dominant throughout, recording a hitting percent of .402, 44 kills, only five errors and 41 assists — 34 of those being from freshman setter Sydney Hilley. The Badgers held the Hawkeyes to 31 kills and only a .090 hitting percent.

Freshman middle blocker Dana Rettke stepped up, leading the team with 12 kills, four blocks and hitting a match-high of .600. Senior outside hitter Lauryn Gillis also contributed to the team’s success with eight kills. Sophomore outside hitter Madison Duello had seven kills and senior outside hitter Kelli Bates had six.

“It’s not too often that you hit .400 against a Big Ten team and say that I’m not sure we played very well tonight,” head coach Kelly Sheffield told UWBadgers.com. “I’m not sure that either team played particularly well, but there’s no bad wins in the Big Ten, especially on the road.”

After winning in Iowa, the Badgers then traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to face the Cornhuskers. Wisconsin, however, could not complete the weekend, losing to Nebraska, 3-2. Wisconsin won the first two sets 25-22 and 15-17, but the Huskers answered back and won three straight sets, 25-20, 25-23, 15-8.

Senior outside hitter Kelli Bates lead the team and earned a season-high 20 kills. Gillis followed shortly behind with 13 kills, while both junior middle blocker Tionna Williams and Rettke both contributed 11 kills each.

Just as a win is a win, a loss is also a loss. Still, that doesn’t mean that Wisconsin took nothing from the loss.

“The fifth set I thought was just a great experience for our kids. We’ll learn,” Sheffield said. “The bottom line is ball control is one of our strengths and we feel like we are one of the best passing teams in the country. I thought the game kind of got going a little bit. This place got loud and I don’t think our kids responded real well with ball control.”

According to Sheffield, in every loss there is something to learned, and with half of the season still to go, there is a lot more learning to be done.

Heading into next week the Badgers will host No. 3 Minnesota Gophers (2-2 Big Ten, 13-1 overall) at the UW-Fieldhouse on Wednesday at 7 p.m.. Wisconsin then hits the road to play No. 16 Michigan State (4-0 Big Ten, 11-2 overall) on Saturday at 3 p.m..

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