The No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers women’s volleyball team kicked off the 2023 season Friday with a 3-1 victory over the No. 15 Baylor Bears in the Big 10/Big 12 Challenge in Minneapolis at Minnesota’s Maturi Pavillion.
The Badgers, who entered the season as favorites to win a fifth-straight Big Ten championship, played ahead most of the game and secured a ranked victory to start the season strong. Wisconsin won their eighth straight season-opening match and also exacted revenge on the Bears, who upset them in a 3-2 loss last August.
The first set was tightly contested, and the Badgers had a slim 18-17 lead. A 4-0 run by Wisconsin followed, which gave them enough breathing room to eventually secure the first set by a score of 25-20.
Wisconsin didn’t have as much trouble in the second set as they built a lead as big as 20-10 before cruising to a 25-14 triumph.
The Bears served the Badgers a wakeup call in the third set as they took a lead at 4-3 and never relinquished it. Baylor’s third set win gave the Bears some life and put pressure back on Wisconsin.
The lost set awakened the Badgers, who comfortably won the fourth set by a score of 25-17. The match ended on a kill from Devyn Robinson — one of her eight kills during the night. Along with Robinson, Sarah Franklin once again led the way for Wisconsin with a recorded 13 kills and 46 total attacks that led the team by a considerable margin.
Northwestern transfer Temi Thomas contributed 12 kills in her official Wisconsin debut and added two service aces. One notable change in this first match was junior and former outside hitter Julia Orzol formally making a position change to libero, where she notched 11 digs,
Kelly Sheffield, Badgers volleyball head coach, told reporters after the match Orzol was “a little bit uneven” and has more improvement to come but understands she is working at a brand new position.
“It's psychological warfare trying to have your outside hitter going up there taking some swings that we're going for,” Sheffield said. We see her everyday in practice… she probably felt like she could've done a little bit better and she could've. I loved how she ran the back court.”
All around, it was a team effort for the Badgers against a talented Baylor squad. Veteran Izzy Ashburn recorded a double-double with 22 assists and 10 digs, and MJ Hammill added 18 assists.
Hammill called the team’s firepower “exciting” after the match.
“”It makes our job easier in some ways, but also just demands from us. We're trying to put up the best ball possible for each of our hitters because they have so much talent. You want to give them a huge window, give them the right availability. You just want to be able to let them go and rip."
Carter Booth, a transfer from Minnesota and 2022 First Team All-Big Ten middle blocker, also made her Wisconsin debut Friday. Booth posted six kills and 10 total attacks.
The Badgers have opened with a win in every season for nearly the past decade.
Wisconsin outshines TCU opponent in exciting match
The Wisconsin Badgers women’s volleyball team visited Minneapolis this weekend starting a season with high expectations but no results to back it up yet. Two days later, they left Minnesota with two resounding victories, winning again on Saturday with a convincing 3-0 sweep over TCU at the Maturi Pavillion.
Wisconsin took care of business and left little doubt Saturday that they would move on from the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge anything but undefeated. The Badgers held steady leads throughout the first set, then used a 5-1 run to seal it 25-16.
In the second set, Wisconsin opened up a large 9-3 lead to start, but the Horned Frogs came storming back to tie it up at 15 and serve the Badgers a wake up call. UW-Madison responded, notching six of the next eight points to eventually wrap up the second set 25-19.
Despite being in an 0-2 hole, TCU didn’t go down lightly, remaining within a couple points all the way down to match point. But, unlike Friday against Baylor, Wisconsin finished the match as early as they could by winning the third set 25-21.
Once again, Sarah Franklin and Devyn Robinson paced the Badgers and led the way in attack. Franklin, who has been the standout Badger so far this year, registered 11 kills and 26 total attacks, while Robinson added 15 kills and 22 total attacks.
Head Coach Kelly Sheffield complimented Robinson after the game, saying, "I thought she was really patient and when it wasn't there… she wasn't trying to just hit low and pound through. She was putting those balls into good areas. I think every time she had an error she came back and had a kill right away."
The Badgers were without highly touted transfer Temi Thomas today, but they were able to overcome her absence. Julia Orzol, who returned to her normal outside hitter position after playing libero against Baylor, was a key contributor as she posted eight kills and 18 total attacks.
The Badgers were stout on defense today as well, limiting every TCU player to single digit kills. They were led on this side of the court by Minnesota transfer Carter Booth, who posted 7 blocks. UW-Madison will come out of this weekend having beaten a ranked opponent and a TCU team who they beat in the second round of the NCAA tournament last December.
The Badgers are now 2-0 under Sheffield for the 9th time in 11 years. Wisconsin will now officially head on the road to play two matches at Arkansas this Wednesday, August 30, before finally coming home to the Wisconsin Field House next Sunday to face Tennessee.