It was emotional last night for all players in the five intense games that were representative of a typical Big Ten match in late November. However, for two players the match meant even more than what the final scores said.
This was the second time this season the two players have faced each other on the court. The younger sister, Christie Gardner, plays for Northwestern, and Korie Gardner, the older sister, plays for the red and white of Wisconsin.
The first time the sisters faced off, Oct. 23, the little sister’s team came out the victor as the Wildcats swept the Badgers in three games 22-30, 41-43 and 24-30. In that match Korie, while only playing two of the three games, led the Badgers in digs with eight. Christie tallied six kills in the match along with 10 digs.
It was a different story the second time around. Wisconsin was able to take Northwestern to five games after losing the first two and win the match, 28-30, 25-30, 30-27, 30-25 and 15-10.
Christie, a freshman outside hitter, started the match smoking in the first game, leading the Wildcats in kills with six and also leading the team in digs with five. In game two, she was able to hammer down three kills while digging one ball.
“Christie played great in the first two games,” Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan said. “I think she played really good … I think Christie Gardner gave them everything she had, which is all we can ask of her.”
After the first two games the momentum switched in favor of Korie, a junior defensive specialist, and her team as the Badgers powered on to win three straight.
“My sister is great; she played very well,” Christie said. “I have nothing bad to say about my sister. Wisconsin altogether had a good game. I love playing against my sister. I don’t want to think about it when I am out there, but whoever comes out the victor obviously played a better match.”
The praise was not only coming from Christie; Korie is one of her younger sister’s biggest fans. “It is really fun to play (against Christie),” Korie said while a huge grin. “I am so excited that we won, and it makes it a lot easier to talk to Christie after the match. I think she did a great job. I think she played aggressive and smart. I just love her.”
“[Christie] was hitting incredible; she was just hitting high shots off of our blockers, and those are the hardest ones to dig,” senior captain Erin Byrd said. “Being a freshman out there, she just stayed calm the whole match, and that just says a lot about her character.”
Christie ended the match third on the team with 17 kills and 12 digs, with a key service ace in the fourth game. Korie was able to dig seven balls while serving strong for UW throughout the match.
While the game is exciting for the fans and the sisters themselves, there is one person who does not enjoy these matchups: the girls’ mom, Deb.
“I hate it when the girls play each other,” Deb Gardner said. “It is probably my worst match of the year. I don’t enjoy watching them pound against each other. It is more fun to watch them play separately.”
While this isn’t necessarily the most fun game for a parent to watch, Mrs. Gardner definitely has a preference for how it goes.
“I just really kind of cheer for both, but I only am disappointed when the scores get farther apart,” Mrs. Gardner said. “If it stays tight and anyone can win, then I am happy because then I know they both played really good matches.”
The sisters had many family members there supporting them. Most of Mr. Gardner’s family from Madison and Mrs. Gardner’s family from Platteville were in attendance.
“It is a friendly rivalry, and it’s great,” Deb Gardner said. “I am happy they are both where they are at.”