Team effort was the theme for the match against No. 7 Minnesota (18-4, 6-3 Big Ten) as the Wisconsin Badgers (17-4, 6-3 Big Ten) defeated the Golden Gophers for a 3-1 win. This win took the Badgers into a three-way tie for third place with the Golden Gophers and Michigan State in the Big Ten Conference.
The Badgers recorded double-figure kills, led by junior Deme Morales with 15 kills. Junior Ellen Chapman recorded 14, freshman Haleigh Nelson with 12 and junior Courtney Thomas with 10.
“This is what you call a great team effort.” Head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “I thought we were solid in all areas, you know we had a lot of help and that’s the way we gotta win.”
Minnesota brought in powerhouses. Senior Tori Dixon recorded 20 kills and sophomore Daly Santana threw a “nasty” serve according to Sheffield.
“We might not have some of the superstars that some other teams have, but what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to play well. We’re just dependent on everybody, and we’ve got to play with a tremendous amount of heart and I thought we did that tonight.” Sheffield said.
UW freshmen Lauren Carlini played the court well recording 49 assists, just three shy of her career high. Her setting helped the Badgers to a .256 hitting percentage, a total of 63 kills, 18 errors and 176 attempts. This was their second-highest hitting percentage in Big Ten play. However, the Gophers hit an opponent high .268 percent, making this the only time this season where Wisconsin has won when hitting less than their opponent.
The Badgers started out the match flat, giving the Gophers a 25-18 win in game one. The Gophers dominated the first set offensively, hitting .432 as a team. The first set had seven ties and three leads changes, but the Gophers pulled through to take the first set.
“We just sometimes come out a little flat.” Carlini said. “With not as much energy as we should have, it kinda takes a little for us to learn the lesson that we can’t start out that way. The last few games we have been coming out in games two and three being a lot more vocal and having a lot more energy; it definitely helped.”
The third set brought Wisconsin the win they needed. Jumping to a 6-2 lead that the Gophers tied up it up to six, but with two straight kills from Morales and Chapman to bring the score up to 18-15, leaving the Gophers in the dust. The Badgers hit a match high .353 and took advantage of costly Gopher errors, including three service errors.
The fourth set started the Badgers with a 7-3 lead due to big play at the net. The Gophers stayed within striking distance until a rotation error and a huge Badger block gave Wisconsin an 18-16 lead. Morales’s kill sealed the win.
“It was a complete team effort in this match which kept our momentum high. Everybody was moving forward after a good play or a bad play.” Morales said.