After snapping a five-match losing streak Friday night, the Wisconsin volleyball team dropped its 12th conference match of the season in straight sets to the ninth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in front of a season-high 4,999 fans Sunday.
The Badgers (17-13, 5-12 Big Ten) committed 19 errors on the day while the Cornhuskers (21-6, 13-5) had just 12. Nebraska finished with a .351 attack percentage, including a .421 percentage in the first set, compared to Wisconsin’s success rate of .145.
UW head coach Pete Waite said the team cannot give up on offensive when playing a team that has an established ability to extend rallies.
“It’s more the hitting errors that cost us,” Waite said. “When the long rallies were going, I think Nebraska was winning those, and that’s a key point – you can’t just expect the play to be over in one attempt on your own side. You’ve got to keep going and grinding it out, and I think they did that.”
After losing the first set 17-25, Wisconsin opened the second set with a 4-0 run. Up 13-6 later in the set, the Badgers allowed a 9-0 run by the storming Cornhuskers, who never gave up their lead in the second set after that point.
Waite said Wisconsin looked like the more aggressive team early in the second set, but Nebraska stole the momentum with aggressive offensive play.
“They probably gained a couple of points, we started getting a little more cautious and we were tipping and off-speeding more than we should be,” Waite said. “At that point, you’ve got to stay aggressive and bang it off the block and hit shots. We didn’t.”
Senior middle blocker Alexis Mitchell, who led the Badgers with eight kills, said the team can’t compromise aggressive play for safer shots.
“As hitters, we need to stay aggressive, but just be smart,” Mitchell said. “[That means] knowing where to hit the ball when we’re one-on-one, just putting the ball away, hitting a smart shot and still staying aggressive.”
Wisconsin got off to another fast start in the third set, again leading Nebraska by four early in the set. Up 16-15, Wisconsin allowed a six-point Nebraska run that included three attack errors by Wisconsin. Nebraska won the last four points of the match with kills from senior setter Lauren Cook and freshman middle blocker Meghan Haggerty.
Toward the end of the third set, sophomore setter Kathryn Kvas replaced sophomore setter Courtney Thomas, who had 27 assists in the match.
Wisconsin out-blocked Nebraska nine to five, with senior middle blocker Mary Ording picking up five blocks of her own.
Wisconsin starts weekend with sweep
The Badgers struck big Friday night in a 25-19, 25-16, 25-17 sweep over Iowa, a match that secured Wisconsin a winning record for the 2012 season.
Wisconsin honored its three seniors – Mitchell, Ording and Bailey Reshel, all of whom significantly contributed to the Badgers’ success against the Hawkeyes. The three proved their dominance with a total of 28 kills, 20 digs and eight blocks in the match.
The Badgers won a tight opening set 25-19 that set the tone for the remainder of the match. Iowa stayed with the home squad early on, never letting Wisconsin’s lead exceed two points. It was late in the set when the Badgers took over and ran out to an eight-point lead as they picked up the win on a service error by Hawkeyes’ middle blocker Alessandra Dietz.
The second set showed early sign of another close contest and the teams tightly battled to a 14-13 Badger lead. The Hawkeyes, plagued with errors, allowed the Badgers to widen their lead to seven off a kill from sophomore outside hitter Ellen Chapman. Wisconsin procured a 25-16 result after two kills by Reshel, the senior outside hitter.
Chapman proved a commanding presence for the Badgers throughout the match.
“I personally needed to start hitting more,” Chapman said. “I tried to swing more instead of tipping and rolling shots, so that helps the team when I am more aggressive.”
Wisconsin comfortably won the third and final set of the match, one that guaranteed a 3-0 sweep of the Hawkeyes. With Iowa unable to get a run going, the Badgers increased their lead as the set continued and Chapman earned four of her impressive 13 kills of the match to close out the third set 25-27.
The Badgers, now 46-20-1 against the Hawkeyes, have won the last six meetings between the two teams.