Wisconsin (5-0) continued their winning streak on Friday night, sweeping Rutgers (1-4) 25-18, 25-20, 25-16. The Badgers led the Scarlet knights in in kills, digs and blocks and had fewer attacking and reception errors.
Despite stats that look pretty good on paper, Coach Sheffield and his team were not happy with their performance. In prior weeks, the Badgers have prided themselves on their mental toughness and the enthusiasm of their bench. This week, though, they admitted to coming out flat.
“There’s nothing really to give us great reviews on,” said senior Molly Haggerty. “I think the whole match we seemed a little tense and tight, and didn’t really get into a groove… From the very beginning, we didn’t come out starting with fire and it showed.”
As Haggerty mentioned, the team’s lacking spark was apparent right off the bat. In the beginning of the first set, Rutgers went on a five point run that forced the Badgers to call a timeout. After the timeout, the team responded with a seven point run to take the lead. Wisconsin maintained the lead the remainder of the set, but didn’t pull away until the end.
In an attempt to alter the energy, Coach Sheffield had fourteen different athletes on the court throughout Friday’s match.
“The subs that we did tonight had nothing to do with me trying to get people time, that was me trying to find somebody who’s going to perform at a higher level,” he said.
In an attempt to pinpoint one of the things that went wrong, Sheffield named their blocking.
“The number of negative blocks was twice as many as the stop blocks,” he noted. “I thought we were pretty soft with our hands. We had a tough time closing down the steam.”
Senior Lauren Barnes commented that the team was aware of their flatness throughout the match.
“We could definitely see it as it was going on,” she said. “I just think we came out flat. We were pretty dead on the court and we need to come out and make our own energy.”
While Badger fans are wishing they could pack the Field House to watch a volleyball match, the team is missing the spectators just as much.
“We don’t have fans anymore to make our energy for us and we didn’t do well with that tonight,” Barnes admitted. “We need to really grasp each other’s energy and pick it up from there.”
If there was one area in which the Badgers improved on Friday night it was their serving. The team racked up a season’s best nine service aces.
“We’ve been working on trying to be a little bit cleaner with our hand contact. Reach in a little bit higher, that’s definitely been a point of emphasis of just getting a little bit more consistent,” Sheffield said about their serving.
Haggerty and sophomore Izzy Ashburn each served up three of those aces while Barnes served two and senior Dana Rettke served one.
“Dana and Izzy served the ball a lot better tonight,” Sheffield added. “They were a lot more consistent, that’s something they’ve been working really hard on in the gym and I thought it paid off a little bit behind the service line for both of them. Both of them have really nasty serves when they’re consistent, it puts a lot of pressure on people.”
Wisconsin will have the opportunity for a rematch against Rutgers Saturday night at 4 p.m.. It is clear the team hopes to walk into the Field House with more energy and intends to perform at a level that makes them worthy of their No. 1 ranking.