In its third game of the spring season, the Wisconsin volleyball team defeated in-state rival Marquette Wednesday evening at the UW Field House.
In Wisconsin’s last home match of the spring schedule, the Badgers swept the Golden Eagles in three straight sets in the teams’ second matchup of the spring.
Coming off a season in which they made an appearance in the National Championship game, Wisconsin was eager to prove it could match and potentially surpass its magical postseason run last year.
The first set was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams. But after the score was 5-5, Wisconsin went on a 20-7 run to win the set. With the Badgers leading 7-6, UW proceeded to go on a 4-0 run, topped off by kills from junior outside hitters Courtney Thomas and Ellen Chapman to extend the lead to 11-6.
Following a service error from Wisconsin freshman setter Lauren Carlini, the Badgers reeled off another 4-0 run started by a Thomas kill. Then, Thomas and freshman middle-blocker Haleigh Nelson combined for a block, and Chapman served two consecutive aces for a 15-7 lead.
Chapman led the team in aces with three and kills with 11.
“I think that spring is a time to learn during the year,” Chapman said. “We go through all of the fundamentals. It’s not so much like competition and grinding it out, it’s more like slow stuff and technique work. I think learning this during the spring and summer is huge going into the fall.”
After trading points, the Badgers ended the first set on a 8-1 run, which was terminated by an emphatic Chapman spike, giving Wisconsin a 25-12 set win.
The second set was once again a set of runs for Wisconsin. Marquette jumped out to a 7-5 lead after improving its blocking play and upping its aggressiveness at the net to force Wisconsin into some errors.
After the Badgers found themselves down 7-5 early in the set, they went on a 6-1 run, which was countered by a Marquette 3-0 run to tie the set at 11. After trading points and with the Golden Eagles holding a 13-12 advantage, the Badgers ignited a 7-0 run to take a definitive 19-13 lead. The Badgers would win the set 25-17, with set-point coming on an ace by sophomore libero Taylor Morey.
The third set was much more tightly contested than the previous two. The Golden Eagles held pace with the Badgers for the first seven points of the set. Then, UW rattled off a 3-0 run capped off by a Chapman kill to establish a lead of 10-7. A kill by freshman outside hitter Taylor Fricano four UW points later gave the Badgers what would be their largest lead of the set of 14-9.
Marquette trimmed the lead to two later in the set at 21-19 and again at 22-20, but couldn’t climb over the hump and take the lead. The match ended after a service error on Marquette, with Wisconsin winning the set 25-22 and sweeping the Golden Eagles out of the Field House.
Taking a look at Marquette’s roster, you would not be able to find one player older than a sophomore and there’s good reason behind that because the Marquette volleyball program’s first year was last season. But in just their first season, the Golden Gophers impressed, going 26-6 and winning the Big East. However, they were undersized and provided no real matchup problems for the Badgers. According to Lauren Carlini, Wisconsin still brought its A game and is always looking to improve, no matter who the opponent is.
“Of course there’s still kinks you have to work out,” Carlini said. “Our team gets motivated no matter what, doesn’t matter if it’s spring, fall, whether it counts or not. It’s just being able to show people what we’re going to be about next year and showing that we’re a new team.”
Junior outside hitter Deme Morales picked up eight kills in the match, and redshirt junior middle-blocker Dominique Thompson, who was named to the U.S. Collegiate National Team last week, had six winners. Fricano and Thomas each picked up five kills.
Following the game, head coach Kelly Sheffield and some team members fielded questions from the Badger faithful who had a favorable turnout for this exhibition match.
“Anything less than a national championship and you guys should picket this place,” Sheffield, who earned National Coach of the Year honors following last season, told the crowd.
“The fall is more about the team; the spring is more about the individual,” Sheffield said. “They’re working on taking the things they’ve learned individually into a match.
“We’re just getting better individually. I thought all of our kids did a nice job tonight, they played hard, they’re trying to figure things out. I thought it was a good effort by everybody.”