The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers, who faced some close calls against Arkansas and Tennessee last week, cruised to a 3-0 victory against Arizona at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Field House on Thursday night in their second of three straight home matches.
The two schools had only locked horns twice in volleyball before Thursday’s match. The Badgers defeated Arizona in both prior matchups and continued their success in the brief series with Thursday’s sweep.
Wisconsin set the tone early in the match and never looked back. They jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the first set, and while the Wildcats rallied to make it 13-10, Arizona would not get any closer as the Badgers went on to clinch the first game 25-17.
Arizona didn’t back down in the second set as the two teams traded brief leads until the Badgers finally broke the deadlock on a service error from Arizona’s Sofia Maldonado Diaz. A kill from Anna Smrek and an attack error from the Wildcats’ Jordan Wilson gave the Badgers some breathing room.
Arizona got its closest chance at a set victory when Jaelyn Hodge notched a kill to make it 23-21 Wisconsin. As they often have so far this season, premier players stepped up and Wisconsin locked down to finish a close set. Sarah Franklin registered one of her team-leading 15 kills to make it set point, after which Northwestern transfer Temi Thomas-Ailara contributed one of her eight kills of the night to secure the second set for Wisconsin.
Thomas-Ailara posted six service aces that constantly confused the Wildcats, sparking plenty of amazement from the packed UW Field House.
Her six service aces tied a school record for a three-set match.
“[My serves] get [opposing teams] out of system a little more, which makes it easier for our team to block,” Thomas-Ailara said after the match. “We have a really good blocking team, so simplifying their job is the key.”
Wisconsin continued their strong play into the third set with a 7-3 lead, looking to avoid the lull they had in Sunday’s five-set match with Tennessee.
Arizona agitated brief frustration in the Field House as they tied the third set at 10, but the Badgers did not let the Wildcats get any closer. Wisconsin would go on to win the final set 25-20, with an ace from jack-of-all-trades libero Julia Orzol to seize another Wisconsin victory.
It was a balanced effort for the Badgers on Thursday night, with Devyn Robinson and Carter Booth recording nine kills each. Caroline Crawford led Wisconsin in blocks, and Orzol added nine digs and two service aces.
Head coach Kelly Sheffield made sure to compliment Thomas-Ailara and Crawford, who he said made impacts in other ways despite having .000 hitting percentages.
“[Crawford] led her team in blocks, and Temi had a great passing night and served a lot of balls,” Sheffield said after Thursday’s match. “Those are things that you love to see from players because that’s maturity.”
Wisconsin will not get much time off as they will return to the Field House on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. to host the Miami Hurricanes, who are off to a fast 4-1 start to the season.