The Wisconsin volleyball team completed a sweep of UW-Milwaukee Saturday night to win the Inn Towner Invitational at the Field House. The Badgers also swept Drake and North Dakota State Friday and Saturday, respectively, en route to winning the title.
UW played well in most areas of the game throughout the weekend, but one area in which Wisconsin excelled was kills. The team has been hitting the ball well all season with a kill percentage of .253 and 14.3 kills per set, even better numbers when compared to the .147 percentage for its opponents so far this season.
“The hitters are doing a good job keeping their errors down,” Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite said. “That’s huge, just like in baseball. In a rally scoring play, if you’re making errors, it’s points for the other team so that makes a huge difference.”
The Badgers continued their hitting success this weekend, starting with their 3-0 sweep of Drake. Wisconsin tallied 34 kills against Drake while committing only nine errors in the three sets, a hitting percentage of .305.
Outside hitter Julie Mikaelsen said that consistency is the key to putting up the solid numbers.
“It’s something we’ve been working on in practice, being more consistent,” Mikaelsen said. “I’ve been working on keeping the ball in and Courtney [Thomas] has been setting the ball how I want it.”
Mikaelsen led the Badgers against Drake with 10 kills and no errors. Middle blocker Alexis Mitchell also contributed with seven kills and only one error while sophomore outside hitter Ellen Chapman tallied nine kills with four errors.
Wisconsin struggled early in its match against North Dakota State, but the Badgers gained momentum and overcame a 16-6 early deficit to come back and win the first set. Senior outside hitter Bailey Reshel played a major role in that first set, tallying five kills and no errors to spark the Badgers’ rally. Reshel finished the match with seven kills, while Mikaelsen added 11 kills and Chapman led the way with 12 kills and only three errors.
“We have a good core of outside hitters that can take their swings,” Waite said. “They really do a good job in that aspect of the game.”
The Badgers struggled in the first set against North Dakota State with a hitting percentage of only .177 but hit .286 and .244 in sets two and three, respectively. UW finished the match with a hitting percentage of .228 with 49 kills while committing 16 attack errors.
Wisconsin continued its hitting success in winning the Inn Towner title with a 3-0 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Badgers tallied 44 kills but committed 17 errors, resulting in a hitting percentage of .209.
But it was a tale of different sets for the Badgers. UW hit .205 with 16 kills in the first set but hit only .119 with 10 kills in the second set. It was the third set that proved to be the most dominating for the Badgers. They hit an impressive .302 in the third set, tallying 18 kills and 5 errors.
Setter Courtney Thomas said it came down to the execution of plays.
“We call out a play and try to execute it as much as we can every time,” Thomas said. “We’ve been working on that a lot in practice, getting that first ball kill right off their service. I think that helped us a lot in that match.”
Wisconsin was led in the match by Mitchell and Mikaelsen, who finished with 12 kills apiece. Mikaelsen and Mitchell also led the Badgers in the deciding third set with six and four kills, respectively.
Reshel also tallied eight kills in the match, three of which came in the opening set. The senior said she felt relaxed early on in the matches.
“[I] try not to go into the match too stressed out and stay as relaxed as you can,” Reshel said. “I just like to have fun while I’m out there, and I don’t like to be stressed out. The mentality is go out and play for fun and that always seems to work for me.”
After the weekend, Wisconsin ranks eighth in the Big Ten in hitting percentage at .258. The Badgers rank seventh in the conference in total kills at 13 per match. Individually, Alexis Mitchell is ranked seventh in the Big Ten with a kill percentage of .421. Waite said the Badgers still have room to improve as the conference season approaches.
“There is a lot we can work on in practice,” Waite said. “We can always become more consistent and efficient in all aspects of the game.”