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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Wisconsin continues strong conference play with two home wins

With two conference wins over the weekend, against Iowa and No. 24 Michigan, Wisconsin stays second in the Big Ten – tied with Ohio State and behind the only undefeated team, Nebraska.

The Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team finished their away series with a sweep in Iowa on Friday, Oct. 14, taking the match 27-25, 25-15 and 25-19. The Badgers dominated the Hawkeyes – holding them to a hitting percentage of less than .180. 

The first set was a challenge as the teams had five lead changes and 10 ties. Wisconsin controlled most of the set until Iowa tied it at 13 and again at 18 points. The Badgers led during this back-and-forth ending, but Iowa took the lead 24-23 with a kill from middle hitter Amiya Jones. Sarah Franklin had her eighth kill of the set, bringing Wisconsin back into the game. They were able to close it after an Iowa service ace, a kill by Julia Orzol, and a block by Danielle Hart and Anna Smrek to end the set 27-25. 

Wisconsin came out strong in the second set going on a four-point streak early in the game and taking the lead 12-6. The Hawkeyes totaled nine errors with only 11 kills, resulting in a hitting percentage of .067. On the other hand, Wisconsin had an impressive .522 hitting percentage which included 14 kills and only two errors. 

The Badger’s 14 kills came from Franklin (six), Orzol (five) and Hart (three). Franklin managed 20 kills throughout the match, her second 20-plus kill match of the season, while also hitting a match-high .567 (20-3-30). Combined with Orzol, the two outside hitters tallied 31 of Wisconsin’s 47 kills in the match. 

In a post-game interview, Kelly Sheffield reflected on Franklin’s 20 kills by pointing out that “on the bus ride over here, probably for about an hour and a half, she spent time with the setters basically evaluating how to get on the same page with the setters. It was an awesome conversation."

Heading into the third set, Wisconsin up 2-0 in the match, Iowa didn’t go down easily. There were seven lead changes and eight ties until it was 10 all. At that point, the Badgers pulled ahead going on an 8 of 11 point win streak to take the lead 18-13. The Hawkeyes fell 25-19 in the third set, hitting .162 percent. 

Wisconsin had three of their four service aces in the third set, two of them coming at a critical point in the game when the game was close at 12 all. The Badgers also had 14 kills in the final set. 

Wisconsin graduate student Shanel Bramschreiber made her season debut playing two sets, recording one dig and serving seven times. Freshman Gulce Guctekin managed her 13-straight match with 10-or-more saves, leading all players with 15 kills. Wisconsin sophomore Anna Smrek also had a career-high of two assists.

On Sunday, Oct. 16, the Badgers headed back to the UW Field House for the first time in two weeks to face No. 24 Michigan. Michigan entered the match 13-4 overall and 4-3 in the conference, ranked seventh in the Big Ten. 

Wisconsin took the match 3-1 after winning the first two sets, 27-25 and 25-17 respectively, falling 24-26 in the third set and clawing their way to a win in the fourth set 25-22. 

Wisconsin held the lead the entire first set and came out strong taking an 8-4 lead. They continued to control the set only allowing Michigan within two points 15-13 and then widening the gap 18-14. 

The Badgers went up 23-19, but struggled to finish the set. Michigan went on a three-point streak with two blocks and a kill by Jess Mruzik, putting the Wolverines within one point. Franklin put away a kill to bring Wisconsin to 24 points. Another kill from Mruzik and another block tied the game at 24 all. 

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Caroline Crawford’s kill put the Badgers within one point of taking the set, but the Wolverines countered with a kill of their own from Jacque Boney. Julia Orzol totaled her fifth kill of the set with an assist from Izzy Ashburn and Michigan had an attack error allowing Wisconsin to take the first set 27-25. 

Wisconsin managed 18 kills in the first set, compared to Michigan’s 13 as well as two aces but four service errors. Michigan was more consistent behind the service line. 

UW dominated the second set, holding Michigan to a .083 hitting percentage which included only 12 kills with nine errors. Wisconsin had their match-high .333 hitting percentage with a low of three errors.

The set was back and forth at the beginning but the Badgers quickly pulled ahead 11-7 taking five of six points in a row. With a service ace from MJ Hammill, Wisconsin went up 15-10 and then increased their lead to seven points. In the home team’s final 10 points of the set, they had six kills from five different players and only two errors. The Badgers won the second set easily 25-17. 

In the third set, the Wolverines didn’t go down without a fight as the teams battled through 15 ties and six lead changes. Michigan took the lead 7-3, four of which were unforced errors by Wisconsin, but Wisconsin managed to tie the set at eight and Crawford’s service ace gave Wisconsin the lead for the first time in the third set. 

The set went back and forth almost every point until Wisconsin went on a 3-0 streak, giving them the lead 22-20. The three consecutive points were kills, two from Franklin and one from Crawford. 

Another Franklin kill gave the Badgers 24 points to the Wolverine’s 23, however they were unable to finish the sweep. With two attack errors from Orzol and a final kill by Allison Jacobs, Michigan took the third set 26-24, forcing the match to go to a fourth set. 

The Badgers were up 2-1 in sets as both teams fought through the fourth. They out-killed the Wolverines 18 to 10 and were able to pull through despite totaling nine errors compared to Michigan’s three. 

With back-to-back kills from Devyn Robinson, Wisconsin went up 11-7, but with three consecutive errors and a kill by Michigan’s Allison Jacobs, the away team knotted the game at 14. 

The Badgers went on a 3-0 win with the help of two kills by Anna Smrek and Robinson followed by an Ashburn service ace, but then the Wolverines went on their own 3-0 run due to three Wisconsin errors. The game went back and forth, tied at 18, 19, 20, 21 and then 22 until Wisconsin found its rhythm. 

Taking the final four points, Wisconsin won the fourth set 25-22 to beat No. 24 Michigan. Two kills by Orzol, a service error and a ball-handling error propelled Wisconsin to the win. 

Three Wisconsin players added double-doubles: Franklin, Orzol and Hammill. Ashburn put up a career-high 33 assists, while Shanel Bramschreiber made her home season debut to a standing ovation and played in all three sets. 

The Badgers out-blocked the Wolverines 13.0-9.5, their ninth match this season with double-figure blocks and their fifth consecutive match with 10-or-more blocks. Wisconsin also recorded a season-high 67 assists and held Michigan to a .184 hitting percentage, their sixth straight opponent under .185.

With this win, Wisconsin extended their win streak to six, the longest this season and their home Big Ten win streak to seven matches. 

Sheffield and Orzol both reflected on their team's defense. Sheffield stated "it's the fact that we held them to a lower percentage - that was what we expect,” while Orzol commented, "I really liked the adjustments we made when it came to defense in the first set … we learned and we grew as the match was going and the aggressiveness behind the serving line was definitely the factor that allowed us to be better also defensively.”

The Badgers stay in Madison to face Michigan St on Friday, Oct. 21 at the UW Field House. Michigan State is currently 1-7 in the Big Ten with a five-game losing streak. Then on Sunday, Wisconsin travels to Ann Arbor to face No. 24 Michigan again. By the end of next weekend, the volleyball team will be halfway through their 20 total Big Ten conference matches. 

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