The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers women’s volleyball team cruised in their Big Ten opener against Northwestern on Friday night to sweep the match in three quick sets.
Wisconsin entered the match coming off an arduous non-conference schedule where they had to play five ranked matchups out of nine total. The Badgers won them all.
Now, the Badgers are focused on beginning their quest for a fifth-straight Big Ten championship, and they got off to a good start in Evanston.
The first set was tight at the beginning. Wisconsin led 10-9, giving hope to a Wildcats squad that came into the match with a 6-4 record. Wisconsin went on a 7-0 to put some considerable distance between them and Northwestern. The Badgers didn’t face much more resistance after that as an attack error from the Wildcats’ Kathryn Randorf sealed the first set for the Badgers. Unlike previous games against inferior opponents, Wisconsin put their foot on the gas and didn’t allow any hope for Northwestern to come back.
Wisconsin took multiple commanding leads in the second set, including leading by as many as 15 points. That enabled a comfortable 25-12 victory to put a sweep within reach. For good measure, Wisconsin took the lead from the beginning of the set and never relinquished it.
The best team in the country sealed the third set and the match because of a service ace from Temi Thomas-Ailara, who was previously a player at Northwestern before transferring to Wisconsin. The game-winning serve was one of eight service aces on the night for Wisconsin.
Elsewhere, it was a balanced effort on the stat sheet led by the usual characters. Devyn Robinson led the team in kills with 11, followed by Sarah Franklin with nine. Izzy Ashburn had another impressive performance, registering 17 assists and 13 digs.
Head coach Kelly Sheffield said he was pleased with the team's performance after Friday’s match.
“We haven't been able to put back-to-back practices together in a few weeks. I think an element of that has shown in our match play. This week we were able to put two really good defensive practices out there and that showed,” Sheffield said. “We were pursuing balls, we were balanced.”
Wisconsin will continue conference play Sunday afternoon when they host Indiana at the UW Field House.