Wisconsin returned to the Field House for their third conference game on Friday night to face No. 9 Penn State. Penn State entered with an overall record of 12-1 and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin, ranked 12th in the nation, was also 1-1 in the Big Ten conference and was 7-3 overall.
Both teams began the first set strong, neither team taking a significant lead until the Badgers went on a five point streak to make the score 13-9. They increased that lead to 17-11 with the help of an ace by Izzy Ashburn, and kills from both Danielle Hart and Devyn Robinson.
Penn State did not back off easily and managed to pull within two points of Wisconsin. However, the Badgers out scored the Nittany Lions 7-4 in the last eleven points of the set to give them the win 25-20.
The second set was more lopsided, but in favor of the home team. Wisconsin totaled 14 kills with only four errors, giving them a .37 hitting percentage. On the other hand, Penn State struggled with unforced errors. With nine errors and only 10 kills, their hitting percentage was only .036.
Wisconsin pulled ahead with a large 18-9 lead and went on to win the set 25-16. The last five Wisconsin points were from kills, the final two from Sarah Franklin.
The Badgers entered the third set with energy, hoping to upset a top 10 team in only three sets. They managed to do just that in a thrilling 31-29 final set.
The biggest lead for either team was five points. Wisconsin held the lead the entire third set, until the end, when they gave up six points to Penn State, going from 18-14 to 18-20. Two of those points were aces by Mandi Morioka.
Wisconsin veteran Izzy Ashburn led both teams with a total of five aces throughout the game. Two of those aces came at critical points in the third set. Her second ace of the third set put the Badgers up 22-20. Penn State tied it at 25, and then the game went back and forth. Tied again at 29-29, Izzy Ashburn pulled off another incredible ace. Devyn Robinson then finished the match with a kill to give Wisconsin the win.
Devyn Robinson knocked down 12 kills, with only one error and had six blocks. Her hitting percentage of .524 was by far the highest between both teams. She also led the Badgers with 15 points.
Sarah Franklin reflected on the win in a post-game interview, telling UWBadgers.com, “I think we were getting some great balls to the outside and there were many shots open. I felt like I could hit anywhere and really score.”
While the Badgers managed to take down Penn State in three sets, their following game on Sunday against Illinois, took five sets to win.
Illinois entered the weekend with an overall record of 7-6 and 2-1 in the Big Ten.
In the first set, there were eight lead changes while Wisconsin fell 25-27 to Illinois. Neither team had many unforced errors but Illinois tallied an impressive 20 kills, giving them a .318 hitting percentage. The Fighting Illini rallied back after being down 9-14 with help from junior Raina Terry and redshirt freshman Brooke Mosher, who combined for a total of 13 of their team's 20 kills.
The Wisconsin Badgers held the lead for the remainder of the second set after being down early, 4-7. They held Illinois to just 12 kills and a .167 hitting percentage, while Wisconsin found themselves with a .364 hitting percentage. The Badgers took this set 25-20, tying the match 1-1.
Sarah Franklin struggled in the first set, only managing two kills, but she managed to put up six of Wisconsin’s 14 kills in the second set.
Wisconsin took an early 5-1 lead in the third set, but were unable to capitalize on their lead. Illinois took seven consecutive points for a total of 14 points, then Wisconsin put up 4 points in a row to tie it at 14.
The fighting Illini dominated the rest of the set, pulling ahead 21-16 and eventually winning the set 25-22. They held the Badgers to a negative .068 hitting percentage. The home team also had four service errors and 13 attack errors which contributed greatly to their loss.
Wisconsin was down 1-2 and needed the next set to force a fifth. After leading for most of the set, Illinois went up 16-15 late in the fourth. Wisconsin took 10 of the final 13 points, seven of which were kills. Sarah Franklin totaled three, Caroline Crawford put up two, and Devyn Robinson and Julia Orzol had one each. With only two errors Wisconsin had a high .385 hitting percentage. The Badgers took the fourth set 25-19.
Wisconsin stepped on to the court and dominated the fifth and final set, taking it 15-5. After losing the first point, the Badgers held the lead for the remainder of the set with a comfortable lead. They won the final seven points consecutively, six of those were attack errors — five by Brooke Mosher and one was a service ace from Liz Gregorski.
In the fifth set, Illinois totaled a negative .3 hitting percentage, making eight errors with only two kills. Wisconsin was able to ride off of Illinois’ errors to take the match in five sets.
Wisconsin’s Sarah Franklin led her team with 15 kills — her third consecutive match with double digit kills. She was followed by Devyn Robinson who totaled 14 kills and three blocks. In their first fifth set win of the season, the Badgers had a season-high 62 kills accompanied by season-high 72 digs.
Wisconsin will face Indiana on Wednesday, Oct. 5 in Bloomington at 7 p.m. They will continue their away series facing No. 11 Purdue and Iowa the upcoming weekend.