The Wisconsin volleyball team returned home this weekend to take on Nebraska Friday night and Iowa on Sunday. The No. 16 Badgers lost to Nebraska 3-1, but came back to defeat Iowa in a three game sweep.
Wisconsin is (8-6 Big Ten, 19-7 overall) tied for fourth in the conference.
In front of a season-high 5,307 fans, the Badgers won the first set against Nebraska 25-18, but then fell 25-20, 25-23, 25-19, giving Nebraska the victory.
“I don’t think we played bad, I think we played really hard,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “I’m proud of the effort that we had.”
After the Badgers commanded the lead in the first set, the team started off strong again in the second. But Nebraska tied the score up at 16-16 and four service errors by Wisconsin allowed the Huskers to win the set 25-20.
Wisconsin responded in the third set by keeping it close, with 14 ties and six lead changes. But with 20 kills to Wisconsin’s 15, Nebraska claimed the set with the help of Kelsey Robinson, who tallied 10 of the Huskers’ kills.
Contrary to the first three, the Badgers lost energy in the fourth set, allowing Nebraska to gain the lead early on at 3-2 and control the rest of the set. After a controversial call of four-hits and an ace by Robinson, the Huskers claimed the match victory 25-19.
Serving was a major component in the Badgers’ collapse; despite three aces in the match, the team recorded nine service errors. Wisconsin’s overall attacking percentage of .208 was unable to rival Nebraska’s .248; with Robinson featuring 21 kills for the Huskers.
“Kelsey Robinson is going to be the national player of the year,” Sheffield said. “Our opponent has that player and nobody else does. That was the difference in the match.”
With a two-match losing streak and a hunger for a win, Wisconsin came back strong on Sunday’s match and swept Iowa 3-0, winning 25-9, 25-14, and 25-20.
The Badgers dominated the first set, starting off with an 11-1 lead that carried the team to an easy 25-9 win. The Badgers recorded a .405 attacking percentage while holding the Hawkeyes to an attacking percentage of negative .026.
“I think always coming out strong in the first set always sets the tone for the rest of the match,” junior Ellen Chapman said. “Coming out strong like we did just made it easier to keep that momentum going.”
Wisconsin started off strong again in the second set with a five-point run, but the Hawkeyes battled back to keep the score close at 10-8. However, it wasn’t enough to stop Wisconsin’s .382 attacking percentage and three team blocks, allowing the Badgers to win 25-14.
With the match on the line, Iowa amped up the intensity in the third set which featured 10 ties and three lead changes. The Hawkeyes staved off a Badger victory for three match points, but ultimately Wisconsin claimed the victory 25-20.
Chapman led Wisconsin with 13 kills, and juniors Courtney Thomas and Dominique Thompson followed with 12 and 10 kills, respectively. Freshman Lauren Carlini assisted the Badger offense with a perfect 6-for-6 in attacks.
“One of the things we talked about going into the match is we want to be ferociously persistent, and I think we were that today,” Sheffield said.
Wisconsin recorded seven blocks to Iowa’s four; freshman Haleigh Nelson lead all players with seven blocks. The Badgers out-dug the Hawkeyes 52-36, with 15 digs by senior Annemarie Hickey.
“We hit really good shots today,” Carlini said. “Our passers really buckled down today and got us some good balls.”
According to Sheffield, block coverage was critical to the team’s victory.
“I thought we covered our hitters really well,” Sheffield said. “I thought Taylor Morey set the tone early with her coverage. It’s unfortunate that covering isn’t an NCAA statistic, but it’s really critical. It gives your hitters so much more freedom to get up there and be aggressive.”
For their final weekend at the Fieldhouse, the Badgers take on Penn State Friday night at 7 pm and Ohio State on Sunday at 1 pm.