The No. 4 University of Wisconsin women’s volleyball team had another back-and-forth weekend as they went 1-1 with a brutal 3-0 loss at No. 1 University of Nebraska and a rebound 3-0 win at the University of Iowa. The weekend marks the end of a three game road streak in which UW traveled to then No. 23 University of Michigan, the Cornhuskers and the Hawkeyes.
The Badger’s (16-3, 8-2 Big Ten) 25-21, 25-22 and 25-15 loss to the Cornhuskers (17-1, 8-1 Big Ten) was their second sweep of the season and came just nine days after their first at home loss against No. 3 University of Minnesota. Despite the final score, the first two sets were very even and Wisconsin’s inability to pull ahead left them frustrated for the rest of the match.
The Badgers’ loss ultimately boiled down to the hit percentage battle in which UW struggled with only .179 to the Cornhusker’s .330. Wisconsin has struggled in high profile games to get their big hitters going at the net and that storyline continued on Friday as they also lost in blocks, 10-5.5 on the match.
Even with another disappointing performance at another top tier Big Ten school, the Badgers did what they have done all season and responded with a resounding win in Iowa City, 25-15, 25-20 and 25-23. While it wasn’t easy, Wisconsin outhit Iowa .339 to .217 and outblocked them seven to one.
Freshman phenom outside hitter Molly Haggerty and All-American senior setter Lauren Carlini returned to form against the Hawkeyes and led the game with 13 kills and 39 assists, respectively. The usual performers stepped up for UW and forced Iowa into 17 errors in the Badgers eighth win on the road this year.
Head coach Kelly Sheffield was proud of the way they battled back and applauded Carlini for her great vision in her sets. Sheffield said of all the teams he’s coached in his 14 years, Wisconsin’s performance Sunday was the best he’d ever seen against the Hawkeyes.
On a different note, the loss to Nebraska was a polar opposite compared to when Wisconsin won their first ever game in Lincoln a year ago in thrilling fashion. The atmosphere and frustration were too much, and the team has another large road block to get around this year.
Despite championship aspirations this season and the program’s first ever No. 1 ranking two weeks ago, this year UW has struggled against top five opponents. Outside of the team’s miraculous comeback from a 2-0 deficit to win in five sets at then-No. 2 University of Texas, the Badger’s two deflating losses in-conference in recent weeks put them worlds behind Nebraska and Minnesota.
That being said, the Badgers are still only one game behind the two and can recover in a rematch at Minnesota to finish the regular season at the end of November. With one of the toughest schedules in college volleyball, it will be interesting to watch how the mentality of this team changes in these next few weeks.
In what has become the norm for this Wisconsin team this year, there is little break before they return home for a top ten matchup against No. 9 Penn State University. With 10 games left, the PSU game marks the first of seven ranked teams left in conference that they will have to play to finish the year.
The Badgers now sit at third in conference behind the Cornhuskers and a surprisingly undefeated Nittany Lions in conference. Wisconsin faces the top team Penn State at home in the Field House on Friday in their annual Pom Pom game.