The No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team suffered their second loss of the season Saturday night, falling 3-1 to No. 19 Penn State in State College.
The Badgers were dominant against Big Ten teams not named Nebraska this year, but injuries and a tough road schedule caught up to them against a quality Nittany Lions team.
Wisconsin saw what they were in for during the first set, an arduous contest that required everything the Badgers had right out of the gate. The two teams went back and forth, tying the set at 20 each. The gridlock continued to a 23-23 tie, but the Badgerswrapped up the first set with kills from CC Crawford and Sarah Franklin.
Life got more difficult from there.
Penn State jumped out to a 15-9 lead in the second set and forced set point with a 24-19 advantage. Wisconsin went on a 5-0 run to knot the set up at 24, and the teams then engaged in a nerve wracking duel, tying again at 27. However, Penn State earned the final two points to win the set and even the match at 1-1.
Coming off a game the night before against Maryland, the Badgers were running on fumes, and the Nittany Lions pounced. The third set was just as competitive as the first two as the score was once again tied at 23. However, the Nittany Lions were the ones who got the final two points this time, going up 2-1 and forcing Wisconsin to face true adversity for the first time since the Nebraska match.
After three intense sets, Wisconsin was unable to avoid the Penn State upset. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 17-11 lead and won 25-18, defeating the Badgers and handing them a rare loss.
The Badgers were once again without Anna Smrek, and the ranked Nittany Lions used a spirited home crowd to overwhelm a fatigued Wisconsin team.
Head coach Kelly Sheffield was happy with his team’s resolve but acknowledged wear and tear got the best of them.
"I was really happy with how we responded with last night, with flight issues and having to pivot and bus here,” Sheffield said. “I thought they did everything to handle that adversity and put themselves in a position to play… you're playing against a team that is tough to score."
The Badgers were paced by Sarah Franklin with 19 kills, followed by Julia Orzol with 11. This was the first time this season Wisconsin had a worse hitting percentage than their opponent, as the Badgers hit .176 compared to Penn State’s .238. This loss will make winning the Big Ten much more difficult for Wisconsin as Nebraska remains undefeated.
For now, the Badgers will get some days off before traveling to Indiana for a two-game trip Friday and Saturday against Purdue University and Indiana University.