Despite the intuition that a ranked team is ultimately superior to an unranked team, there isn’t much disparity between them when in the context of the NCAA volleyball tournament.
No. 6 Wisconsin, having defeated Oregon the previous night, faced an Iowa State team that is not much further behind on paper Friday night. If the fight that played out on the court was no indication, player and coach comments solidified that this was indeed a battle in each set.
While the Badgers swept the match, the victory didn’t come without its difficulties. Described as a challenge during each and every rally by UW head coach Kelly Sheffield and setter Lauren Carlini, a tough win means the Badgers keep playing and are in the swing of things ahead of their Dec. 11 Sweet Sixteen match against No. 11 Florida.
Offensive player of the game: Romana Kriskova
Kriskova tried to do a bit too much the previous night against Oregon, but a refocused role helped the junior outside hitter find her stride.
Hitting at .727 on the night and landing eight kills, the Slovakian’s performance was enough to boost Wisconsin past a stingy Iowa State defense. The most impressive part of her performance though was her ability to stop the Cardinals’ momentum dead in its tracks.
Seven of her eight kills resulted in sideouts, halting Iowa State’s momentum at some of the most crucial times of the match.
Defensive player of the game: Haleigh Nelson
Nelson’s two service aces, five total blocks and three digs gave her the complete night. When Iowa State’s offense got on any roll, she was there to stop it. A tough task considering the distributing ability of the Cardinals’ offense.
However, Nelson found it in her to deliver time and again – especially to end the second set with two straight blocks.
When you knew it was over:
A vicious kill by freshman Tionna Williams late in the third set put Wisconsin up 20-19 and set off the UW Field House in all its glory. After the Badgers dropped the next point, Williams would again unleash her fury for her ninth kill of the match only to send the Field House into a bigger applause.
The atmosphere of the crowd and energy present on Wisconsin’s side of the court made for a fearsome combination, one that let Iowa State know the match was over. The Badgers would only give up one more point to the Cardinals, making for an 8-2 run over that stretch.
Lauren Carlini on the toughness of the match:
“It did not feel simple. Like [head coach] Kelly [Sheffield] said, they’re a tough defensive team, it’s hard to get balls down there. We only had seven attack errors and I think our hitters just did a great job of moving the ball around and making them change their tactics…it may have looked easy but it didn’t feel easy. It felt like a battle through all three sets.”
Taylor Morey on the crowd:
“It’s awesome to be on a team where we step on the court and out crowd is 100 percent behind us. They’re very educated and they know how to get us going and that’s an advantage of playing on your home court. We love them and I’m very thankful to play in front of such awesome fans.”
Kelly Sheffield on the team’s execution:
“I was proud of the way that our team after errors, how we bounced back and executed. I thought we executed really well, seven attack errors is pretty low errors against a team that prides itself on suffocating back-court defense. I thought our players were patient, worked hard in transition and tried to go with what was given and that’s a hard thing to do against a team like that.”