Over a year after facing another team, No. 1 Wisconsin (2-0) returned to the court this weekend and are living up to their preseason ranking. The badgers swept No. 13 Purdue (0-2) in three sets in both their Friday and Saturday evening matches.
The season looks a bit different for the badgers this year. After the entire Big 10 volleyball season was postponed until the spring as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, their return to the court does not mean a return to normalcy. Each Big Ten team, including the badgers, will be competing against the same team twice in one weekend in series-type match play.
Because the Badgers will be playing teams back to back, they will have the opportunity to review game footage and make adjustments during the following match, which the team used to their advantage on Saturday. After struggling with blocking in their first match against the Boilermakers, the Badgershad 10 team blocks in their second match, while the Boilermakers had just one.
“You're gonna learn a lot about the teams in that second match,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We'll go back and watch some film and there'll be some things to learn from, and that's part of the fun is learning about what the areas that we've got to get better and what our opponents are going to be seeing out of us.”
Middle back Dana Rettke put up 11 blocks in their series against Purdue, seven of which were in just their second match. Rettke averaged 4.17 kills and 1.82 blocks per set against Purdue, and had a .523 hitting percentage. Their second match also marked Rettke’s 500 career block.
Stats like these earned Rettke the AVCA Women’s D1 Player of the Week honor as well as her 9th career Big Ten Player of the Week honor.
Setter Syndey Hilley was a big contributor to the Badger’s success this weekend as well, averaging 11.5 assists per set, and earning her 12th collegiate career Big Ten Setter of the Week honor.
In the Badger’s first match against Purdue, middle blocker/right side Devyn Robinson made her collegiate debut. In the first ball she was set in Friday’s match, Robinson put down a kill.
“I had a lot of nervous energy going in and I put it all into that first kill,” Robinson said.
Robinson kept up the good work all weekend, proving that she can be an asset to the Badgers moving forward.
“I think she’s a player who’s going to do a lot for us” Sheffield said.
In addition to the modified schedule, the Badgers found themselves in a nearly empty Fieldhouse this weekend. With each player only allowed to bring two guests to each game, the Fieldhouse was much quieter than in previous years. But what the Badgers lacked in fans they made up in energy from the bench. This included big celebrations for Robinson and other players who got their first chance on the floor this weekend.
“It was super cool to see Devin go out there, and in her first match as a freshman just absolutely dominate,” Hilley said. “I think you can see the entire team was so excited for her just because of how much work she’s been putting in during this pandemic and finally seeing it pay off in our first match.”
UW plays the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2-0) next weekend on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. at Huff Hall in Urbana-Champaign, IL.