As Sunday’s match concluded, the season also on the brink of conclusion, it was the same old story for the Wisconsin volleyball team in its final weekend series at the Field House.
The Badgers looked as good as anyone in the Big Ten as they easily defeated the overmatched Iowa Hawkeyes by a score of 3-0 Friday night. But Sunday, Wisconsin struggled with consistency as it looked overmatched by ninth-ranked Nebraska 3-0.
The matches could not have been any greater polar opposites, just like the season for Wisconsin. Consistency —or lack thereof — has been the key for the Badgers all season long.
All season long, Wisconsin has shown it can play with anyone, as they battled top-ranked Penn State in each set on national television before losing in straight sets. Then the Badgers played an Indiana team that had won just one Big Ten match all season, but managed to come into Madison and beat Wisconsin 3-1. That inconsistency continued Friday night.
In the opening match of the weekend, the Badgers displayed some of their best volleyball of the season, beating the Hawkeyes 3-0. They hit an impressive .384 for the match, including a .552 percentage in the second set, which they won easily 25-16.
UW head coach Pete Waite talked about the stellar play of the team on Senior Day.
“I thought we really played a good match,” Waite said Friday. “I thought the seniors played well and everyone played hard for them. We had a nice balanced attack and really played a solid match.”
Despite the dominating win, the Badgers still had their struggles as they committed nine service errors. Against one of the top teams in the conference, those errors would have proved to be devastating. But against a last place Big Ten team, the Badgers were able to get away with it.
Sunday was much uglier. Wisconsin was not able to sneak by with errors Sunday against the ninth-ranked Cornhuskers. The match was the entire season in a nutshell: flashes of brilliance and the same errors that would prove to be crushing in defeats.
Once again, the Badgers were able to play with another top-tier opponent point-for-point, but they were not able to seal the deal.
The Badgers struggled with everything from hitting to even communicating. There were multiple instances Sunday when a ball would fall in between multiple Wisconsin defenders who looked at each other with apparent confusion.
Junior right setter Julie Mikaelsen talked about the lack of communication.
“It’s just about being aggressive,” Mikaelsen said. “We just need to call the ball and take the ball. That’s just what we got to do.”
There were instances against the Cornhuskers when it looked like the Badgers would get over the hump and finally win a decisive set. Wisconsin got out to a very hot start in the second set, leading by a score of 13-6.
Then a 10-1 run found UW down by two just as quickly as it had built its lead. The Badgers were never able to recover from their run and lost the set 25-20.
Wisconsin continuously hurt itself Sunday as well, committing 19 attack errors in the match, including seven in the first two sets. Wisconsin hit just .171 in those two sets and hit just .100 in the third set as only one player on the team hit over .250 for the Badgers.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Waite said of the reason for the errors. “That’s something we talked about in the locker room; we knew we had high errors even to start the match. That just shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net.”
Wisconsin concludes the regular season this week with its final home match coming Wednesday against No. 10 Minnesota and then their final match Friday at Purdue. With their tournament hopes dwindling, senior outside hitter Bailey Reshel told an all too familiar tale for the team: the need to bounce back.
“We just need to go after it,” Reshel said of the final week of the season. “It sucks to lose, but we still have a chance at the tournament and the biggest thing is to move forward.”