The Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team had a strong weekend, dominating No. 1 Nebraska in a rousing sweep Friday and sweeping Iowa Saturday while celebrating Senior Night.
Entering Friday, there were some questions about the Badgers, and their claim for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament was in question. They answered a lot of those questions Friday, welcoming the Cornhuskers to the UW Field House for a rematch of the heartbreaking five-set loss they suffered in Lincoln in October.
While Nebraska had already wrapped up the Big Ten championship, there’s always something to get up for anytime the No. 1 team comes into town. The Badgers got off to a shaky start, trailing 5-1. Nebraska led steadily throughout the set, but Wisconsin hung around and struck later to take the lead. Trailing 19-18, they used a 4-0 run to grab a 22-19 lead. They did not trail again and took home the first set 25-22 with a kill from Sarah Franklin.
Nebraska wasn’t going down quietly, and they gave the Badgers all they could handle in the second set. The Cornhuskers led 22-19 and appeared to be in good shape. But behind a raucous crowd, the Badgers fought back to reclaim a 24-23 lead. Nebraska star Harper Murray scored two straight points to force set point. Anna Smrek responded with a kill, but Nebraska took the lead right back with a kill from Ally Batenhorst. Wisconsin took the last three points to secure the second set.
While the Cornhuskers were definitely talented enough to get out of an 0-2 hole, Friday was not their day. Wisconsin raced out to a 20-12 lead and never looked back, winning 25-16 and earning revenge for their October loss to Nebraska. This marked head coach Kelly Sheffield’s fourth win against a No. 1 ranked team.
However, Sheffield was more pleased with the performance than the opponent they beat.
“This match, for us, wasn't about Nebraska," Sheffield said. “When you've lost two out of your last three, it was about us playing well at the end, and it was essential for us to start playing well no matter who we're playing.”
Riding the high of a massive victory, Wisconsin was in letdown territory against Iowa Saturday, but they avoided the trap and defeated the Hawkeyes 3-0. Iowa, who entered the game winless in the Big Ten, managed to give Wisconsin all they could handle in the first set, but Wisconsin held on to win 25-21. Wisconsin brushed Iowa off the last two sets, winning 25-10 and 25-16.
The highlight of the match for the Badgers was graduate student Joslyn Boyer, who engineered a 9-0 serving run in the first set on Senior Night. Additionally, graduate student Sydney Reed registered two aces, and Gaby McCaa got her first kill of the season. The Badgers secured a second-place Big Ten finish with an overall record of 26-3 and conference record of 17-3.
The Badgers now turn their focus to the NCAA Tournament, starting this weekend, looking to win their second national championship in three seasons.
The Badgers will host the first two rounds of the Wisconsin quarter of the bracket as the Badgers earned the third overall seed in the tournament, good for one of four No. 1 seeds. They will face Jackson State Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the UW Field House.