The University of Wisconsin volleyball team (11-3) started out the double match weekend by sweeping Northwestern (10-8) 3–0 Friday night before falling 3–1 to No. 7 Illinois (16-3). With the Badgers back in the UW Fieldhouse after four straight away matches, the team looked to its fans to get back on track after a loss to Iowa last Saturday.

The No. 8 Badgers made quick work of the Wildcats in the first set thanks to the Badger hitting core. They put Northwestern away easy in a 25–13 opening set.

But the biggest story of the night came from the Badger defense in both the back row led by libero Tiffany Clark and the front row blocking core led by Dana Rettke. Clark had 21 digs on the night and Molly Haggerty added 11 of her own.

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Clark was impressed with the Badger’s performance in the back row.

“We’ve gotten a chance to work on our discipline on defense. I thought everyone played really sharp,” said Clark.

In their dominant performance, Wisconsin recorded a season-high 53 digs as a team.

After the game, Rettke discussed the importance of putting up big blocks and continuing to be a productive blocking team through the season.

“I think [blocking] had a pretty good impact. I thought our defense was doing really great and the backcourt picking up what we didn’t get,” Rettke said.

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Rettke recorded five of the team’s eight blocks.

The Badger defense continued to impress as Wisconsin made quick work of the Northwestern Wildcats winning the second set 25–14 and taking the match on a 25–15 third set.

After coming off the Northwestern win, the Badgers had a short turn around for the other Big Ten team from Illinois, the No. 7 Fighting Illini. This is the second time this season the Badgers will face Chris Tamas’ Illini this season. Last time the Badgers stole three sets and the match in Illinois. The Illini were back for vengeance.

But Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield knew the road ahead was challenging.

“It’s just two teams that just got done playing each other a week and a half ago and two teams that are familiar with each other. I’m sure we’ll have another humdinger at our place,” Sheffield said.

And a humdinger it was. The Badgers got out to a quick start in the first set, trying to continue the defensive showing and overpower Jacqueline Quade and the Illini offense. Wisconsin will win the first set in a close 25–23 score.

The Illini will then battle back to take another close one 25–21. The sets were tied at one and Wisconsin had lost momentum going into the swing third set.

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With the Badger trailing the whole second set until they tied the score at 20, the last-ditch effort lasted a little longer than usual. After the score was tied, it took 20 more rallies to finish this set. The Badgers and Illini battled back and forth through 10 extra points until the Illini eventually overpowered the Badgers and won a long set 35–33.

After such a long set of rallies, the Badgers seemed to have lost more momentum and drop the final set to Illinois 25–23.

Though Wisconsin took their first home loss, a personal best 26 digs from Clark was one of the high stats from the Badgers. Others include Rettke with 19 kills, Tionna Williams with six blocks and Sydney Hilley with 49 assists.

The Badgers will host No. 5 Nebraska in a whiteout game at the UW Fieldhouse Friday at 8 p.m.