Badgers railroad Boilermakers, win in straight sets

Senior middle blocker Tionna Williams hit .636 percent with seven kills as the Badgers swept the Green Bay Phoenix to advanced to the next round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Senior middle blocker Tionna Williams hit .636 percent with seven kills as the Badgers swept the Green Bay Phoenix to advanced to the next round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Image By: Brandon Moe

If you just looked at the box score, you might have thought that the No.13 Wisconsin Badgers (5-4 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) cruised past the No.15 Purdue Boilermakers (8-2 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) without much difficulty. The Badgers swept the Boilermakers on three sets, and all advanced stats were slanted heavily in the Badgers favor. 

Those stats, however, betray the intensity of the Badgers Big 10 opener. Wisconsin trailed 18-15 in set one and 20-17 in set two, battling back both times to crush the Boilermakers upset bid. 

There was no bigger moment in the game than the end of the second set, where Purdue looked poised to battle back and even the match up at one set a piece. 

The Badgers had initially led 24-22, with a Dana Rettke kill forcing set point. With the crowd on their feet, however, the Boilermakers battled back. Middle blocker Grace Cleveland deftly flicked a kill over the outstretched hands of two Badger defenders to cut the Badger lead to one, and middle blocker Jael Johnson eliminated that lead altogether with a service ace. 

At this point, Badgers fans couldn’t be blamed for feeling a bit pessimistic. Entering this set, Wisconsin was just 1-5 in sets decided by two points, and 0-4 when sets went to extra points. 

And, for a while, it looked like that trend would continue. Wisconsin forced three set points after the game was tied at 24, and every time the Boilermakers evened the score. Blake Mohler had two kills to save the set for the Boilermakers, and Catilyn Newton evened up the set up at 27 a piece. 

Then, Dana Rettke took over. The Badgers middle blocker volleyed home a vicious kill to give the Badgers their fourth set point, and then, following a perfect set from Sydney Hilley, killed both the set and the Boilermakers hopes in one fell swoop, giving the Badgers a 2-0 match lead after a much needed triumph in extra points.  

Purdue’s will to fight faded in the third set, and the Boilermakers couldn’t get out of their own way, recording 9 attack errors in the game’s final frame. The Badgers closed out set three by a score of 25-15, recording their first home win and conference victory in the process. 

Rettke, who leads the country in career hitting percentage at .433, was dominant against the Boilermakers. She led the team with 12 kills on a hitting percentage of .476, and was perhaps even more impressive on defense, where she finished with six total blocks. 

Rettke was a major part in what appeared to be a much improved Badgers defense. The team entered the contest allowing a hitting percentage of .255, but Purdue hit just .101 on the night. After recording just one block in a loss at Washington last weekend, the Badgers had 8 against the Boilermakers. 

After the game, “everything changed defensively,” Rettke said. “I think our block was so much better and we were getting a lot more positive touches,” she added. 

Badgers coach Kelly Sheffield wasn’t completely satisfied with the Badgers defense, however, and acknowledged that there was still plenty of work to be done. 

“To be clear, I don’t think we’ve got anything figured out. I think it’s a work in progress and will continue to be a work in progress. Quite frankly, I think we could have been better defensively. There were some missed reads that we took some naps on, but I liked our effort.” 

The Badgers will look to record their second Big Ten victory when Indiana (11-2 overall) comes to town this Sunday. Then, No.4 Penn State (8-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) visits Wednesday in what is sure to be a hotly contested affair. 

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