The Wisconsin Badgers women’s volleyball team returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Field House in style Saturday afternoon, downing the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames in a 3-0 sweep for the season opening exhibition.
The Badgers started strong, including an 8-2 scoring run late, to cement their 25-13 victory in the first set. Senior Devyn Robinson and redshirt junior Sarah Franklin set the tone for the Badgers, with each registering three kills to pace the team as Wisconsin finished the first set with a stellar .360 hitting percentage.
The Badgers didn’t miss a beat in the second set as they raced out to an 8-3 lead and didn’t look back before posting a 25-12 win.
The Flames, who finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference last season with a 22-10 record, were resilient despite being dominated in the first two sets. They took somewhat sizable leads in the third set, at one point up 8-5. But the Badgers fought back to tie the set at 8 points and continued to outplay the Flames, taking the third set 25-18.
There were only two lead changes the whole match, and the Badgers definitely looked like a team that went 28-4 last season.
As this was an exhibition match, the two teams agreed to play a fourth set to allow both teams to continue to figure out their rotations — especially UIC, who brought a large travel roster. Wisconsin took the fourth set for good measure, winning 25-19 to get their 2023 campaign started on a bright note.
Franklin, who was a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten first team in 2022, was stellar all day, recording 34 total attacks and 19 kills.
Badger fans also got their first look today at transfers Carter Booth from Minnesota and Temi Thomas from Northwestern. Booth was an All-Big Ten member last year, while Thomas was a 2022 AVCA second-team All-American.
Thomas notched 16 attacks, something Franklin complimented following the match.
“Temi behind the service line is scary. Every time she goes up, she’s gonna whip this ball and it’s gonna come at you really fast,” Franklin said at a post match press conference. “If you’re not ready, it will get away from you.”
The Badgers showed dominance in many portions of Saturday’s match, which was a preseason tune-up before regular season action begins this Friday.
Wisconsin, who is going for their fifth straight Big Ten Championship, enters the season ranked 2nd in the AVCA Coaches Poll, only behind defending champion Texas.
The Badgers will open the regular season Friday against #15 Baylor in Minneapolis at the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge. The Badgers also have bouts scheduled with #12 Marquette and #11 Florida, among others, before they enter a gauntlet of Big Ten play in late September.
Coach Kelly Sheffield, entering his 11th season with the Badgers, is ready for his team to embrace the challenges ahead.
“We’ve had some great battles over the years with [Baylor], and it’s for real here, and getting this season started is certainly an exciting time of year,” he said following Saturday’s game.