The Badgers (11-7 Big Ten, 22-8 overall) traveled to the Great Lakes state for a pair of matches this weekend, coming out with two solid wins against ranked opponents.
They knocked down No. 17 Michigan State 3-1 Friday night and took out No. 18 Michigan 3-2 on Saturday night. This is the first pair of back-to-back Big Ten road wins for the Badgers since 2008.
Wisconsin started out slow against MSU (9-9, 20-10), giving up an 11-2 deficit in the beginning of the first set. The Badgers fought back, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Spartans from winning the set 25-22. Michigan State’s offense was clicking, hitting more than the Badgers could handle with an impressive .345 kill percentage.
The second and third sets were a different story after UW got off to a quick start, and held the charging Spartans late in the frame. In the second set, MSU hit a dreadful .056 in the 25-20 loss.
In the third set, junior outside hitter Ellen Chapman recorded her 1000th career kill, making her the 20th Badger to do so in the program’s history. With the help of Chapman’s eight kills in the set, UW won handily 25-21.
The fourth set was highly contested, with six lead changes. Despite a fight from the Spartans, junior outside hitter Courtney Thomas put away a kill to win the set 25-23 and complete the season sweep of the Spartans.
The Wolverines (7-11, 17-12) proved a tougher test for the Badgers, taking the match to five sets.
The Badgers’ offense, however, led by freshman middle blocker Haleigh Nelson’s career-high 16 kills, couldn’t be stopped as the Badgers won 3-2.
After UW won the first set 25-16 they dropped the second by a smilar 25-18 margin. Key for Michigan in the second set was senior outside hitter Molly Toon, sister of former Badgers Kirby and Nick, who recorded 3 kills and a service ace late to close out the set.
After UW won a hard-fought third set 25-22 it couldn’t put away the Wolverines in the fourth after they jumped to a quick 7-2 lead, eventually winning 25-20.
The Badgers finally iced the match in the fifth set with a quick 15-8 win.
UW had one of its best offensive performances of the year against the Wolverines, with a .299 hitting percentage in the match, with Nelson (.483) and redshirt junior middle blocker Dominique Thompson (.429) leading the way. The Badgers also had four players in double-digit kills, with Chapman recording 19, Thompson and Nelson accumulating 16, and junior outside hitter Deme Morales dropping in 10.
Wisconsin wraps up the season this week with a Wednesday match at No. 11 Minnesota and a Sunday match at Northwestern.