The Badgers had a tough weekend in Chapel Hill, N.C.,for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, losing their first match of the season.
In the first highly contested match of the weekend, Wisconsin took on No. 11 North Carolina. It was clear from the start that it would be close throughout, and the match did not disappoint. Wisconsin had an early 18-15 lead in the first set, but then had three consecutive errors to let the Tar Heels back in the game. The Badgers ended up losing the first set, but then won the second and third sets to take back the lead.
The fourth set was not as close as the previous three, with the Badgers losing by five points. Both teams fought to make it to a fifth set and pushed each other until the end, but Wisconsin trailed the entire fifth set after having their shots blocked early, giving North Carolina an early lead. The Tar Heels were able to hold on and upset the Badgers, handing them their first loss of 2016.
The Badgers bounced back quickly in their second match against Louisville, who had been ranked earlier in the year. Wisconsin took an early lead, winning the first set by six points, but had a much more difficult time in the second set, needing to go into extra points to get the win. They finished the sweep of the Cardinals in the third set to get back to their winning ways.
One of the key players over the weekend was sophomore Tionna Williams, who led the Badgers in kills against North Carolina, and was tied for the team lead in blocks against Louisville. She is continuing her impressive start to the campaign, as she led the team in blocks for the fifth game of the season.
Freshman Molly Haggerty missed the Louisville game with a sprained ankle. She has been one of the top offensive players for Wisconsin, averaging 3.3 kills per set. The sprained ankle is believed to be minor, so she could be available for the next match against No. 16 Texas A&M Sept. 16.
After suffering their first loss of the season against a ranked opponent, the Badgers will face three consecutive ranked opponents. Next weekend they take on No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 3 Texas, then they open up their Big Ten schedule against No. 12 Ohio State. In order to get through this stretch, the Badgers will need their key players to be healthy and playing well, or they could falter once more.