The wins just keep piling up for the red-hot Wisconsin volleyball team.
The Badgers, led by outside hitters Aubrey Meierotto and Marian Weidner, extended their winning streak to eight-straight matches Wednesday night by cruising past Northwestern at the University of Wisconsin Field House, 30-19, 30-19, 30-20.
“I think it took us about half of the first game to get rolling,” Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite said. “Once we did, we really separated ourselves from Northwestern and pulled away.”
Despite proving itself to be the clearly better volleyball team Wednesday night, Wisconsin (16-5, 10-3) had some inauspicious beginnings during its match with Northwestern (8-15, 3-10).
Following a few UW hitting errors and some strong Northwestern serving, the Badgers fell to an early 7-3 deficit in the first game.
The team responded, however, eventually rolling to a 30-20 win.
“Every time you walk on the court against a team you have to get used to their players, their tendencies and you have to make some adjustments,” Waite said. “You have a scouting report, but until you see it and see the pace of the ball and see the positions they’re hitting, it takes a little time to adjust. And I think our team did a nice job of that — once we figured them out, just getting on track and pulling away.”
A bit of an early letdown can many times be expected following a big win, though.
And the Badgers, fresh off a victory over the No. 2-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers, were in that very situation heading into their matchup with the Wildcats.
“We actually talked about it before the game in the locker room,” Meierotto said. “We figured there probably wouldn’t be as many people here, and it wasn’t obviously as big of a game as Minnesota was. But we talked about how we just had to bring our own fire, bring our own energy and do that sort of thing.”
In the second game the Badgers jumped out to a 10-4 lead and never looked back — holding the Wildcats to a .235 hitting percentage and winning the game 30-19.
Wisconsin carried this momentum into game three, as the Badgers raced out to a 22-6 lead and later inserted reserves Amy Bladow and Lindsey Boler, who each helped cap off UW’s game and match-decisive 30-19 win.
For the match, Meierotto and Weidner provided the spark for Wisconsin’s offensive attack, as the two led the team with 13 and 14 kills, respectively.
Also contributing to the Wisconsin attack were senior Jill Odenthal, junior Sheila Shaw and freshman Taylor Reineke. Odenthal finished with nine kills, while Shaw and Reineke each notched eight.
Defensively, Wisconsin was led by freshman libero Jocelyn Wack’s 18 digs and Reineke’s three blocks — which helped stifle the Northwestern attack to a mere .157 hitting percentage. And it’s in this area that Coach Waite feels the team has probably improved the most this season.
“The difference of us from now to a month ago is that we are keeping the opposing teams’ hitting percentages down much better,” Waite said. “We were a good blocking team, and then we were a better blocking team, and now we’re just a much, much better defensive team. So, you combine the defense with our good block, and it’s very tough for them to score.”
Wisconsin will be in action again Friday when the team travels to Champaign, Ill., to take on the No.25-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini. The Badgers downed the Illini in their previous meeting in Madison, 3-1.