The University of Wisconsin volleyball team squared up against No. 5 Nebraska Friday night at the UW Fieldhouse. Coming off a top ten Big Ten loss in Illinois last weekend, Coach Kelly Sheffield’s Badgers were looking to regain momentum and take down the Cornhuskers, an always tough opponent.
The Badgers started the first set strong on a 30 opening run. Right away you could tell the fieldhouse was going to electric as Madison Duello recorded the first point of the night with a towering block. The Badgers commanded the whole first set without any lead changes as they held off small Nebraska runs. Wisconsin won the opening set, 25–20.
Again, the Badgers started out strong in the second set, but the Nebraska offense came alive rallying to an 8-2 run late in the set. Wisconsin couldn’t hold off and the Cornhuskers tied up the match at 1–1, with a 25–19 set win.
Facing yet another swing set, similar to the match against Illinois, Wisconsin knew this match would carry momentum throughout the rest of the game. A back and forth set showed off both the Badger offense and defense. With the score tied at 16, Nebraska launched full speed ahead and finished the match on a 10-1 run. The Badgers faced a consecutive home loss unless they won in five.
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Knowing a huge game was on the verge of slipping through their fingers, the Badgers came back with an answer to Nebraska. A mid-set run opened up another close set, but it was a late game 4-0 run led by Duello that sealed the fifth set.
“I think we all came together and were just like, we are winning this next set,” Duello said.
With an even playing field, and a set only to 15, Wisconsin had to act quickly. They could not afford to start slow or give a commanding lead. Duello commented on the atmosphere in the fieldhouse and the influence it had on the game.
“Something I said in the fourth or fifth set was, ‘Listen to the people that are here,’” Duello said. “We have so many people behind us, and I think they helped us pull that out.”
A 3-0 opening run is what the Badgers needed, and it’s what coach Sheffield got. Duello and Rettke continued to propel the hitting core for the Badgers as Tiffany Clark and the back row picked up nearly everything Nebraska tried. The Badgers went on to win the fifth set in comeback fashion 15–8.
The coach acknowledged the five-set match was more intense than we usually see for the Badgers.
“That was bloody and bare-knuckled,” Sheffield said.
Leaders in the box score included Duello with a career-high 15 kills. Dana Rettke recording a double-double with 12 kills and 10 blocks. Sydney Hilley had 45 assists and 19 digs as she also recorded a double-double. Clark was the leading passer with a career-high 26 digs.
The second match of the weekend came against the Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday. Wisconsin’s losses to the Hawkeyes the last time these two teams met meant the Badgers were out for vengeance.
The Badgers made for a quick Sunday afternoon as they led in all stat categories by the end of the match and moved to 7-3 in Big Ten play.
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The scores were 25–18, 25–13 and 25–21. Leading the way for Wisconsin was Rettke with 17 kills, Hilley with 4 blocks and 48 assists, and Clark with 12 digs.
The Badgers will travel to Ann Arbor to face the thirteenth seeded Michigan Wolverines next Friday at 7 p.m. You can watch the game live on the Big Ten Network.