Wisconsin and Minnesota took their heated rivalry to the volleyball court Sunday afternoon at the UW Field House. An announced crowd of 4,341 watched as the Golden Gophers made quick work of the Badgers, sweeping UW in three straight sets.
Minnesota's victory is its fourth straight against the Badgers, and Wisconsin (6-10 Big Ten, 11-14 overall) has not defeated the Gophers since the 2007 season. Minnesota (12-4 Big Ten, 21-7 overall) also swept the Badgers in Minneapolis back in September.
""We have to play better, and [Minnesota] is a team we can beat,"" Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite said. ""They're good, but we aren't playing the kind of ball we should be playing.""
The Badgers have now lost five consecutive matches, and find themselves three games below .500 for the first time this season. To even have a shot at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin will have to win all of its four remaining matches, including a difficult road matchup next week against No. 5 Illinois.
Wisconsin continued its troubling trend of committing significantly more attack errors than its opponent. The Badgers tallied 33 errors, while Minnesota had 16. The Gophers also had a significant advantage in the blocking department, picking up 16, compared to four by Wisconsin. Because the Badgers gave the Gophers so many points through errors, UW actually had more kills than Minnesota, 36 to 35.
The Badgers were led by a team-high 11 kills from junior outside hitter Allison Wack. She also tallied a match-high 10 digs, and Wisconsin out-dug Minnesota 39 to 38.
Senior outside hitter Brittney Dolgner reached the career milestone of 1,000 career digs on Sunday. She also had 10 kills to go along with her four digs.
The Golden Gophers arrived in Madison without star hitter Brook Dieter, a junior who left the team last month for personal reasons. Prior to her departure, she led the Gophers in kills per set with 3.94.
""They're not as good without Brook,"" Waite said. ""She was one of their top attackers, defenders, and blockers. It does hurt them, and we didn't challenge them enough to make that a glaring problem for them.""
Minnesota senior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer has stepped up in Dieter's absence, and on Sunday she totaled a match-high 14 kills with a .480 hitting percentage. She also contributed 12 blocks and six digs for the Gophers.
""(Lauren) is a great athlete,"" said Wack. ""I've been playing against her since our club days, and she's always been the type of player that can take her team on her back. I think especially since Brook left, she's definitely been doing that for them.""
Wisconsin will look to get back on track next weekend with road games scheduled at Northwestern and Illinois. The Badgers played both squads at the UW Field House last month, defeating Northwestern 3-1 but falling to Illinois 3-1.
We have to come together here in the next couple of matches and clean things up,"" Waite said. ""Somehow I think the group needs to find a way and find the leaders who are going to step up and do that.""