The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers women’s volleyball team has fallen to a Big Ten team for the second time this season, making them now 18-2 and 10-2 in conference play. The Badgers lost in four sets to the now No. 8 Purdue Boilermakers, 25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 28-26, ending their nine-match winning streak.
The Boilermakers wasted no time in getting started on the Badgers. They began the first set with numerous kills from senior Grace Cleveland, eventually causing them to lead the Badgers 18-6. Wisconsin was eventually able to go on a seven point streak, closing the gap to 21-16, however they were not able to finish out the set, which they lost 25-20.
The second set was more evenly matched with the Badgers offense coming alive. Fifth-year senior Grace Loberg and sophomore Jade Demps dominated the front row, both with four kills in the second set. Despite looking more put together, the Badgers dropped the set against the Boilermakers, heading into the third set down 2-0.
The Badgers started off the third set down 8-2, but climbed back to tie the game 11-11. Kills from Demps and fellow sophomore Devyn Robinson fueled the Badgers, allowing them to take the third set, forcing a fourth set. Wisconsin did not allow Purdue to lead by more than three points in the fourth set, but nonetheless, they dropped the fourth set in extra points. Purdue’s offense and strong blocks stopped the Badgers in their tracks.
The Badgers failed to record a service ace for the first time this season, but they kept the service errors to only four.
"We did a poor job of a lot of different things,” head coach Kelly Sheffield confessed. “I didn't think we were putting any service pressure out of the gate.” Sheffield also pointed to the team’s poor communication as a contributing factor to their loss.
Despite the loss, Demps came to play against Purdue. The pin hitter had one of the strongest matches of her career after not having played against Nebraska the previous week.
Coach Sheffield commented on Demps’s positive impact on the match in the post-match press conference. Demps hit .303 (13-3-33) and recorded a career-high four blocks. Demps followed Grace Loberg in kills, who led the team with 15.
Libero and fifth-year senior Lauren Barnes controlled the back row, recording a career-high 33 digs. Barnes surpassed 300 digs for the season, which is higher than both the digs she recorded in both the 2019 and 2020-21 season.
The Badgers have the chance to bounce back this weekend with two away matches. On Friday, the Badgers will play Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston at 7 p.m. They then travel to Iowa City to play the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday night at 7 p.m.