After sweeping both Colgate University and Florida Gulf Coast University in the first two rounds of playoffs, the Wisconsin Badgers are headed to their ninth Sweet Sixteen in a row.
The Badgers started off their weekend on Friday at the UW Field House against Colgate University. Wisconsin swept Colgate 25-12, 25-15, 25-14. The Badgers beat the Raiders in each statistical category, hitting .391 (45-9-92) to their .063 (27-21-95), and out-blocking them 7-4. Wisconsin recorded seven aces while not allowing Colgate a single ace.
The first-team All-Big Ten graduate student, Dana Rettke, recorded a team high, 14 kills. Rettke hit .565, her 12th time this season hitting over .500 in a match. Sydney Hilley, another first-team All-Big Ten selection, recorded 40 assists while also recording two block assists. Both Rettke and Hilley were unanimous votes onto the first-team All-Big Ten team.
Following the quick sweep against Colgate, the Badgers advanced to the next round of the tournament. Florida Gulf Coast University was next on the radar for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin swept Florida Gulf Coast 25-17, 25-20, 25-15 on Saturday night. The Badgers hit a season-best of .455 (49-9-88) against the Eagles, while only allowing them to hit .184 (33-14-103). Two outsides came alive offensively for the Badgers, Grace Loberg and Julia Orzol. Loberg tied her season-high with 15 kills. Orzol, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, followed with 12 kills. The two combined only had three attacking errors.
Despite being out-blocked by the Eagles 6-5, the Badgers offense flourished. “From the beginning we could tell they were a really scrappy, really good defensive team,” Setter Sydney Hilley admitted. “I think it is all credit to my passers who were able to put me in really good positions to have a balanced offense. When we're able to be really balanced I think we are really hard to defend. So that is all credit to the passers and then the hitters hitting the right shots.”
The quick, yet successful weekend at home has bought the Badgers another week in their season. Wisconsin will play another game at home on Thursday night, against the No. 13 UCLA Bruins, their first ranked opponent of the tournament. A loss would end the Badgers season, but a win would lead them to the Elite Eight game on Saturday night, also at the UW Field House.
The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers will face the No. 13 UCLA Bruins on Thursday at 4 p.m. at the UW Field House.