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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Kelli Bates

Kelli Bates was pivotal for the Badgers win over the Buckeyes. 

Volleyball: Badgers’ winning streak reaches 16 games

No. 2 Wisconsin (16-1 Big Ten, 25-2 overall) continued its winning streak after defeating No. 10 Illinois (13-4, 21-7) in four sets Wednesday night at the UW Field House.

The Badgers’ 16-game winning streak ties the school record. Wisconsin’s win was not easy, as Illinois forced the Badgers to four sets, 25-13, 24-26, 25-17 and 28-26.

“That was a heck of a match by two teams that were laying it all out there,” said Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield. “I think that was college volleyball at its best.”

Sheffield recognized how Illinois targeted freshman outside hitter Kelli Bates, hitting 60 balls at her throughout the match. Although she was targeted, she picked up her play and competed.

“She was monstrous tonight, absolutely monstrous,” Sheffield said.

The defense on both sides of the net was tested tonight, especially by the Fighting Illini’s redshirt junior outside hitter Jocelynn Birks and Wisconsin’s Bates. Birks had 20 kills throughout the match while Bates had a career-high 17.

The Badgers faltered in set two, but got over it quickly and turned around their play. Every set was over 25 and displayed the stiff competition of the Big Ten. The Badgers had to learn to respond to what the Fighting Illini gave them, and according to Sheffield, they did it well. Sheffield saw the tough fight the girls fought and was proud.

Sophomore setter Lauren Carlini led her team with 54 assists throughout the match. She saw the perseverance in her teammates on the court tonight.

“We got a lot of heart, and the heart of a champion,” Carlini said about the close match. “We are doing this together, and we’re doing this now.”

The Big Ten offers competitive play and is a tough conference for many freshmen to get accustomed to in their first year. Bates has found reassurance after her team’s strong performance.

“I knew especially after 10 points of the first set, this was going to happen all game,” Bates said about being targeted by Illinois. “I think I handled it well, the girls were giving me a lot of confidence back there.”

Bates did not dwell on her personal success, but thought the team win was more important. Her teammates put trust in her, the only freshman, which excelled her play and gave her confidence.

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“It’s exciting, this team is unbelievable,” said senior right side hitter Courtney Thomas. “The things that we’re doing right now are awesome.”

Wisconsin moved up two spots in this week’s AVCA Top 25 Coaches poll to No. 2. This is the highest rank this season for the Badgers and ties the program’s highest mark ever.

There are only three matches left in conference play for Wisconsin. The Badgers continue as sole leaders of the Big Ten with Penn State and Illinois behind them at two and three.

Wisconsin will play at No. 20 Ohio State Friday at 6 p.m.

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