When asked to describe how it felt to take down ranked opponents in consecutive weekends, Janelle Gabrielsen had just one word -“Awesome.”
The senior setter and captain showed her veteran talent as she tallied her second triple-double of the season to lead her team to a 3-1 victory over the No. 24 Michigan Wolverines. Scoring on 10 kills, distributing 32 assists and digging out 11 balls, Gabrielsen became the all-time leading Badger in career triple-doubles with three.
Gabrielsen shined at key moments in the match against the Wolverines, especially in the crucial third set. The senior was five-for-six on attacks, giving her a set-high .833 hitting percentage. Gabrielsen pounded a set-up from fellow setter Courtney Thomas to snap a 5-0 Wolverine run and regain the lead for the Badgers.
“I don’t really have a good jump, so I just try to be shotty and keep them on their toes because I’m not going to crush the ball,” Gabrielsen said. “Basically, I like to move around the defense and I like to be crafty. That’s my game.”
The “crafty” setter also led the team in assists in each set. Gabrielsen distributed 32 assists on 63 attempts, securing a match-high .508 percentage. Gabrielsen set up junior middle blocker, Alexis Mitchell and Thomas for the final points of the first set. She also helped get the third set off to a good start for the Badgers by distributing balls to both ends of the net, assisting a kill by Ellen Chapman on the outside and one from Thomas on the right side to help the Badgers take the lead at 2-1.
The setters, Gabrielsen and Thomas, connected often and constantly switched off between attacking and passing. Thomas set up each of Gabrielsen’s five kills in the third set, and the senior setter was also strong defensively in the third set, tying defensive specialist, freshman Caroline Workman, at four digs.
Many of these digs occurred when Gabrielsen was covering the right side. There, she received any unblocked attacks from the Wolverine’s outsider hitter, Alex Hunt. Despite Gabrielsen’s defensive effort and the Badger’s 11.5 blocks, Hunt scored on 22 kills for Michigan.
Gabrielsen also had a notable performance from the service line. Both she and libero Annemarie Hickey contributed two service aces to account for the team’s total of four.
“For the most part, we served pretty well,” head coach Pete Waite said. “Four aces is pretty good. I think [Gabrielsen] did a good job. We pushed them deep and then we had [Gabrielsen] go short for a while. I think that got them off their rhythm for a little bit in their offense.”
Triple-doubles are becoming common with the Wisconsin setters, as Thomas tallied the second of her career in the match against Michigan State Saturday.
Thomas led the team in digs with 13 and also added 23 assists and was third on the team in kills with 10 in the Badgers’ loss to the Spartans. Thomas’ defensive efforts were best seen in the second set, when she dug out six balls on the right side. Michigan State’s offensive guns pounded Thomas and the Badgers back row since they did not tally any blocks in the first or second set.
Waite acknowledged the lack of blocking and weak serving as reasons for Wisconsin’s loss.
“You knew the hitters and we knew they were really strong. [Jenilee] Rathje and [Kyndra] Abron are particularly strong, and [Alexis] Matthews is just big and swats it over people,” Waite said. “We had to serve tougher to keep them away from the net and we just didn’t do that tonight.”
The third set proved to be Thomas’ strongest offensive game. She came up with four kills, two of which occurred back-to-back to increase Wisconsin’s lead to 15-8 and force a Michigan State time out. After the Badgers saw that lead slip away, Thomas came up with another kill from the outside to break the tie and get the lead back at 17-16. The freshman setter also distributed the ball to assist three of the Badgers’ four kills in the final set points. However, her efforts weren’t enough to bring the Wisconsin squad together for the win.
“We got frustrated and then we kind of broke apart, so being a team today was a little hard and we need to fix that, definitely.”