Badgers prove they can play with the big dogs in victory over Penn State

The Badgers had a huge night, upsetting Penn State in dramatic fashion.

The Badgers had a huge night, upsetting Penn State in dramatic fashion.

Image By: Courtesy of Wisconsin Volleyball twitter

History was made at the Wisconsin Field House on Wednesday night, as the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers Volleyball (7-4 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) team recorded their 1,000th program win. What a win it was, as Wisconsin defeated No. 5 Penn State (9-3 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) in dramatic fashion, coming from behind after dropping the first set to the Nittany Lions. 

Coming into tonight’s match, the Badgers had yet to add a signature win to their resume. Chances to do so against Marquette, Baylor, and Washington were squandered. Despite having the country’s toughest schedule to this point, Wisconsin’s only ranked win came against a Purdue squad that was clearly outmatched. 

Deep into the second set, it seemed like the Badgers struggles against top competition would continue. With Penn State leading 1-0 in the match and 16-12 in the set, Badgers outside hitter Danielle Hart lofted a ball into Penn State territory. Nittany Lions Allyson Cathey and Serena Gray proceeded to block that ball into oblivion, extending Penn State’s lead to five and spreading a sense of uneasiness throughout the crowd. 

Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield called time out and summoned over his trusty setter Sydney Hilley, who was slated to serve next for the Badgers. 

“I went to her and said, just go after them,” said Sheffield after the game. 

That message got across.

After Grace Loberg cut the deficit to four, Hilley recorded two straight service aces, breathing life back into the crowd and putting the Nittany Lions on notice. Madison Duello and Molly Haggerty continued the Badgers run, evening the game up at 18 a-piece.  

With the lead up for grabs, a Penn State outside hitter launched a kill attempt towards the back left corner of the court. The ball was initially deflected, and it seemed destined to fall for a Lions point. 

Libero Tiffany Clark had other ideas, however, and she leapt through the air, somehow managing to corral the ball forward with her outstretched fist. Madison Duello and Danielle Hart combined to return the ball over the net, and when presented with a second opportunity to win the point, Penn State outside hitter Jonni Parker smacked her kill attempt out of bounds, a moment that was a catalyst for the Badgers. 

The Badgers ended up winning that set by a score of 25-23, with outside hitter Grace Loberg recording the kill to officially even the match up. That kill was one of twenty one for Loberg, a career high.  

Loberg was feeling it all night, finishing with a stellar hitting percentage of .486, the highest of any Badger on the night. 

Everything went right for Loberg following the pivotal second set, and everything went wrong for the Nittany Lions, who simply fell apart under pressure. Penn State finished with 14 attack errors in the final two sets, losing decisively by a score of 25-13 in each frame. 

The win marks the first time in Badgers program history that the team has beaten Penn State in two consecutive matches, after Wisconsin won in State College by a score of three sets to two last year. 

Loberg, undoubtedly the star of the game, was quick to attribute her success to her teammates, most notably Sydney Hilley, who finished the game with 46 assists. 

“I felt pretty confident the whole match, and I think a lot that comes from Syd [Hilley], she puts so much confidence in each one of us.” 

The Badgers continue conference play on Saturday, as they travel to Lincoln to take on the No. 2 Nebraska Cornhuskers, arguably the toughest game in their brutal schedule. 

The game, scheduled for 7:00 PM, can be found on Big 10 Network. 

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