Playing three matches over the course of just two days, No. 6 Wisconsin (5-0) turned what easily could have been a tumultuous and tiresome road trip into an impressive display of dominance, picking up sound victories over Syracuse, Arkansas and Kansas State to capture the championship in the K-State Invitational this weekend.
The Badgers opened their 2017 road campaign by traveling to Kansas and competing in a rare doubleheader. On Friday morning, the Badgers swept the Syracuse Orange (2-3) by a score of 25-9, 25-14, 25-16, and then went on to do the same against the Arkansas Razorbacks (4-1) later that night, prevailing 25-18, 25-21, 25-22 in three sets. Moving on to the final round of the tournament at Ahearn Field House, UW continued on its sweeping spree, taking out the hosting Kansas State Wildcats (2-4) with a 25-17, 25-16, 25-20 win Saturday afternoon to claim the first-place prize.
On a team brimming with young talent, it was the proven play of senior outside hitter Kelli Bates that made the difference for the Badgers this weekend. With a combined 38 kills, Bates earned the K-State Invitational Most Valuable Player award and carried the offensive load for her team. Building off the success that they had in last week’s home opener, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Madison Duello and freshman setter Sydney Hilley both turned in tremendous performances and they were, accordingly, named to the all-tournament team. Duello finished with 29 kills and 10 blocks, while Hilley showcased her passing prowess with a team-high 116 assists across the three contests.
While this season is still in its infancy, Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield was pleased with how his team has approached the first handful of matches, appreciating how their mindset stays the same no matter what transpires on the floor.
“We're only two weeks in, but I'm constantly learning things about this group,” Sheffield said. “I liked our demeanor there. I liked our business-like approach there, even when we were up pretty big.”
Wisconsin has another busy weekend ahead of it. The Badgers will play the first of their weekend matches next Friday against Lipscomb University (5-1) when they return home to host the annual HotelRed Invitational in the UW Fieldhouse. UW will the take on Texas A&M (2-0) two days later. The first-set is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.