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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Sheffield sees growth from Badgers ahead of series against struggling Hoosiers

The undefeated Badgers are back on the road this weekend after sweeping Rutgers on Friday and Saturday night. No. 1 Wisconsin (6-0) will head to Bloomington, In. to face off with Indiana (2-4) this weekend in their next two-match series. 

Indiana heads into this weekend after beating Iowa (1-5) in five sets last Saturday behind a fresh lineup. The Hoosiers added eight freshmen to the team this season, and have been relying heavily on them thus far. 

The Hoosiers’ freshman-heavy roster includes outside hitter Tommi Stockham, who recorded 26 kills Saturday against the Hawkeyes. Freshmen middle blockers Layla Blackwell and Savannah Kjolhede put up 13 and eight blocks, respectively, in the Hoosiers’ second match against Iowa, both of their collegiate career highs. These three freshmen also hold the highest hitting averages on the team: Kjolhede at .293, Blackwell with .254 and Stockham with .207 for the season. 

Other standout players for the Hoosiers are setter Brooke Westbeld — who has recorded 107 sets so far this season — and outside hitter Breana Edwards, who has put away 73 kills on the year thus far.

After a lackluster win on Friday, the Badgers showed up with more energy to sweep Rutgers for the second night in a row on Saturday. This has been a trend for the Badgers this season, who have been coming out much stronger in their second match of each series. 

Head coach Kelly Sheffield feels good about how the Badgers are progressing as a team as they move into tougher matchups later in the season. 

“Hopefully we just continue to develop and grow as a team,” Sheffield said. “That's the goal is to develop better chemistry and continue to grow with how we're playing the game, continue to develop individually. That's part of the exciting thing about coaching is watching people that continue to develop as we move through.”

Despite an undefeated season thus far, Sheffield is always looking for ways that the team can improve. 

“He's got high expectations,” UW Assistant Coach Gary White said. “He wants our program to be viewed as something that really strives for excellence, something that wants to be great day in and day out.” 

Wisconsin plays Indiana Friday and Saturday at 3 p.m. central time in Bloomington, Indiana. 

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