While the cheers in the Wisconsin Field House were fake, the energy on the court as the Badgers swept the Boilermakers in three sets last night was very real. No 1. Wisconsin (1-0) defeated No. 13 Purdue (0-1) 25-14, 25-15, 25-16 by playing big at the net and staying consistent in their passing game.
Wisconsin certainly earned their first place ranking, siding out every time the Boilermakers served and stopping Purdue from scoring any consecutive points in the first set. By the end of the night, Wisconsin had racked up an impressive 45 kills, hitting .415 (45 kills-6 errors-94 attempts) and kept Purdue to .116 (30-19-95).
Throughout the entire match, the only time Wisconsin trailed Purdue was at the beginning of the second set, when the Boilermakers went on a 3-0 run. Senior libero Lauren Barnes helped the Badgers quickly take the lead, serving six consecutive points until the team was up 7-3. Barnes also led the Badgers in digs, with 11 in the back row, and had one of the team’s three service aces.
Many fans had anticipated the advantage that having an experienced team would bring the Badgers, but it would be wrong to ignore the abundance of new talent the team showed off last night. Five players made their Wisconsin debut, including freshmen Devyn Robinson, Jade Demps and MJ Hammill.
Robinson stood out as a player to watch this season, ending the night with nine kills on the right side, two digs and one block. She finished second in kills to senior star player Dana Rettke, who had 11.
“The first thing is, she wasn't small out there,” Head Coach Kelly Sheffield commented about Robinson. “She knows she belongs in this type of environment. She was ready for it and sometimes you get people who play a little bit small, a little bit scared, a little bit anxious, but that wasn't her and I really liked her demeanor.”
With the Big Ten conference-only schedule having teams play each other in back-to-back matches this season, Wisconsin and Purdue will face off again Saturday night at 8 p.m. Sheffield noted his excitement to find out how the Boilermakers respond and readjust in this second match-up.
One area the Badgers could seek to improve upon Saturday is their serving. On Friday, Wisconsin served three aces to Purdue’s two, but also had seven service errors to Purdue’s six. Reducing these errors could help the team secure even larger leads in the series finale.