In Big Ten volleyball, nothing ever comes easy. Each team in the conference must overcome their fair share of obstacles, fighting to survive a brutal schedule which proves immensely challenging for even the nation’s most talented teams.
And for the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (2-4 Big Ten, 11-4 overall), the arduous nature of life in the Big Ten has certainly taken its toll. After an immaculate run through non-conference play, the Badgers are being taught a lesson on just how unforgiving their conference can be.
UW, eager for a change of fortune after dropping two consecutive contests in agonizing, five-set fashion, had no such luck in East Lansing over the weekend.
In a road rematch with the No. 14 Michigan State (5-1, 12-3) this past Saturday, an ordinarily formidable Wisconsin defense was overrun by a strong-serving Spartans team, falling to MSU by a score of 25-22, 20-25, 22-25, 16-25.
Wisconsin was out-hit .348-.295 in the match and was bombarded behind the service line, as the Spartans tallied a whopping seven aces on the day, keeping the Badgers off-balance and out of rhythm.
"We gave away too many points in our serve and pass game,” Badgers’ head coach Kelly Sheffield said after the match. “We spent the afternoon with our setter on the run. This team [Michigan State], especially at home, their serving is unbelievable. They had us on our heels the entire afternoon passing and I'm not sure we did enough behind the service line to cause them a whole lot of issues as well."
On a day that left a lot to be desired, the performances of junior middle blocker Tionna Williams and freshman setter Sydney Hilley stood out as bright spots for the Badgers. Williams recorded a season-high 17 kills on a torrid .696 percentage, while Hilley notched her fourth double-double with 44 assists along with a career-best 14 digs.
"I thought Tionna [Williams] was fantastic,” Sheffield said. “The first part of the match I thought she was really effective in serve receive. The second half of the match I thought she was really effective as well in transition and was working really hard. I think her and Sydney [Hilley] were connecting really well."
Now riding a three-match losing streak for the time since 2015, the Badgers will return home and attempt to right the ship against No. 4 Nebraska this Wednesday night at the Field House. The Cornhuskers defeated the Badgers in Lincoln last weekend. The match is slated to start at 8 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.