After an impressive previous week at the UW Fieldhouse that saw the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (5-5 Big Ten, 14-5 overall) defeat both the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-1, 16-4) and the Indiana Hoosiers (1-9, 12-10), the Badgers responded with a less convincing two-game stint this week. UW hit the road to play two more Big Ten competitors but could ultimately only split those contests.
On Wednesday the Badgers swept Maryland (3-6 Big Ten, 14-7 overall) 25-16, 25-20 and 25-19 to earn head coach Kelly Sheffield his 400th career win. Freshman Dana Rettke led the team with 14 kills and four blocks. Seniors Lauryn Gillis and Kelli Bates, along with junior Tionna Williams, were contributing as well, each with eight kills of their own.
Wisconsin’s win was characterized by a more well-rounded performance, having streaks of both dominant offense and defense. While earning 45 kills, a hitting percentage of .389 and only 10 offensive errors, Wisconsin held Maryland to 29 kills, a hitting percentage of .069 and forced the ‘Terps into 22 errors.
“I thought we did a lot of good things tonight,” Sheffield said after the game. “Especially with some serve-receive patterns and some lineups that we frankly haven’t played with before. I thought we did a lot of positive things.”
Wisconsin then traveled to No. 2 Minnesota to face its over-the-border rivals for the second time this season. In the first match less than a month ago, then-No. 6 Minnesota squeezed out a five-set victory. Unfortunately for the Badgers, the team did not play well enough to redeem their earlier loss. Wisconsin ultimately lost to the Gophers (8-2, 19-2) in a grueling four-set match.
Wisconsin started off the match strong, winning the first set 25-21. The Gophers responded to beat the Badgers 18-25, 21-25 and 25-22 in the next three consecutive sets. Rettke lead the team again with 22 kills and four blocks, while also not committing a single hitting error.
“I thought Dana was fantastic tonight. She was pretty much unstoppable,” coach Sheffield said. “Dana was working harder than she ever has.”
Rettke, however, wasn’t the only freshman to make an impact in the game. Sydney Hilley recorded her team-best double-double with 52 assists and 11 digs.
In addition to the freshman, Williams, redshirt sophomore Madison Duello and Bates were all key contributors to the team’s total kills and blocks.
“There are a lot of positives to take from tonight’s match,” Sheffield said. “That’s a good team we lost to.”
Although the Badgers had high hopes of finally defeating the Gophers after a three-year losing streak, Sheffield recognizes there is still something to be learned from every loss.
The Badgers continue their traveling, heading out east again to play No. 1 Penn State (9-1, 19-1) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. and then return home to host the Northwestern Wildcats (2-8, 12-10) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Fieldhouse.