After a blowout win against Western Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 4-seeded Wisconsin Badgers (30-2 overall) hosted the Illinois State Redbirds (27-6) Friday night. While the Badgers won in straight sets for the 22nd time this season, they were met with some sturdy competition in every set.
The Badgers jumped out to an early 8-3 lead in the first set thanks to stifling defense and great serving. Five service errors from Illinois State helped Wisconsin take the first set relatively comfortably, 25-17.
The Redbirds came out firing in the second set, jumping out to an 8-5 lead over the heavily favored Badgers. Wisconsin responded with four consecutive points following a timeout to grab a 9-8 lead. They continued their 13-4 run to lead 18-12. Back-to-back kills from senior outside hitters Courtney Thomas and Ellen Chapman closed out the set 24-19 for the Badgers heading into the break.
After falling behind 9-10 in the third set, three Badgers' blocks keyed a 4-0 run to take a 13-10 lead midway through the set. The Redbirds rallied to knot the set at 17-17 before they recorded yet another service error. Redshirt senior middle blocker Dominique Thompson followed that up with back-to-back kills to grab a 20-17 lead. A nice hit from freshman outside hitter Kelli Bates set the Badgers up with a match point, and a Redbirds hit out of bounds gave Wisconsin their 21st consecutive victory.
Big Ten Player of the Year Lauren Carlini led all players with 33 assists, along with 13 digs, as she picked up her 16th double-double of the year. The Badger defense held the Redbirds to just a .041 hitting percentage in the final set and a .131 attacking percentage overall.
The win marked the first time the Redbirds had been defeated in straight sets since Nov. 8, 2013, just over a calendar year. It also broke their streak of 23 consecutive wins, which was the second longest active streak in the NCAA.
The Badgers now advance to the Sweet 16 in Louisville where they will face Ohio State Friday.