The Wisconsin volleyball team defeated Illinois with a match sweep this Saturday evening, moving their season record 15-0.
The Badgers have gone almost three weeks without losing a set, dating back to their mid-September match against Florida. Consequently, they have yet to lose a set in Big Ten play and have now won 24 consecutive Big Ten matches dating back to last season.
The Badgers got off to a slow start Saturday after trailing 9-6 early in the first set. But after a 5-0 run they were able to wrestle the lead back with an 11-9 advantage.
The Fighting Illini, who entered the match with a 7-8 record, did not go away quietly. Despite the Badgers opening up a lead as large as 18-13, the Illini managed to tie the game at 20 apiece. The teams traded 2-0 mini-runs before equalling the set at 22-22.
The No. 1 team in the nation avoided a first set loss with three straight points capped off by a service ace from Gulce Guctekin.
Wisconsin had less trouble in the second set. Other than a brief 1-0 lead, the Illini did not lead for its remainder.
The Badgers blew the set open with a 12-4 lead and didn’t look back. Wisconsin wound up winning the set 25-15 with Sarah Franklin landing the clinching kill.
Similar to the second set, the Illini held a 2-1 lead at the beginning of the third, but the Badgers weren’t interested in staying in Urbana-Champaign any longer. The Badgers used separate 5-0 and 4-0 runs to take a commanding 17-6 advantage. The rest of the set was routine for Wisconsin as the Illini were unable to mount a comeback against a dominant Badgers team, losing 25-12.
In spite of a rocky first set, Wisconsin put together another compelling performance. They registered a .388 hitting percentage, their second highest of the year. They had 12 blocks, six service aces and committed just eight errors.
Individually, Franklin led Wisconsin with 11 kills followed by Anna Smrek with 10. Carter Booth added eight kills and five blocks, while Izzy Ashburn and MJ Hammill both posted double-doubles.
The Badgers are now one win away from tying their record for best start to a season, first achieved in a 2020-21 season that led to the NCAA Final Four. They will look to tie that mark Friday evening when they take on Rutgers at the UW Field House.