No. 3 Wisconsin (9-1) extended its conference winning-streak to 13 consecutive matches with a resounding three-set victory (25-16, 25-19, 25-17) over no. 17 Ohio State (10-3) in the 2016 Big Ten opener at the UW Field House.
After two weekends away from Madison, the Badgers returned home with a vengeance, delivering a punishing defensive performance that devastated the opposition all night long. From the moment they took the court, Wisconsin’s defense stifled Ohio State, bombarding the Buckeyes with 15 blocks in total. Sophomore middle back Tionna Williams and junior outside hitter Kelli Bates lead the swat team with career-highs in blocks, tallying seven and six rejections respectively.
In the early going , Ohio state gifted the home team with a myriad of maddening mishaps, suffering nine violations in the opening set. Despite jumping out to a 3-2 advantage, the Buckeyes quickly lost that lead on its own accord, as a string of OSU errors gave the Badgers the edge. With UW in the driver’s seat, the Badgers relied on four team blocks as well as four kills from Bates to draw first blood and take the set, 25-16.
Trailing 6-3 to begin the next set, UW answered with a 6-1 run to claim the lead, and then rode a decisive 5-1 run later in the set to finish off the Buckeyes for the second time. Senior setter Lauren Carlini played a prominent role in facilitating the offense and distributing the ball, recording 9 of her team-high 30 assists in the middle set.
Thanks to kills from senior middle back Haleigh Nelson, redshirt senior outside hitter Romana Kriskova and freshman outside hitter Molly Haggerty, the Badgers caught fire to start the third, gaining an early five-point lead. Ohio State would not go quietly though, as it managed to cut the score to 16-13 as part of a 7-2 run. Wisconsin would eventually put away the Buckeyes, knocking them out 25-17 to secure the match.
Wisconsin concluded its 25th annual “Steve Lowe” night with a .333 overall hitting percentage, while Ohio State mustered a percentage of .118.
On a night reserved to honor the life and accomplishments of a former UW volleyball coach, Kelly Sheffield, the team’s current headman, left the match highly-impressed with what he saw, seeming particularly pleased with the defense.
“I thought defensively we were pretty solid tonight. Front court and back court, we were getting quite a few stuff blocks tonight,” Sheffield said. “[We were] finishing our blocks and the back court was fighting back there, which is good because this is a team that really gives you a whole lot of different looks.”
Looking to end the first weekend of Big Ten play undefeated, Wisconsin will host Maryland tonight at 7 p.m.