The No. 9 University of Wisconsin women’s volleyball team (2-2) struggled at the HotelRED Invitational this past week, falling to No. 7 Marquette and No. 5 Baylor on back-to-back nights at the UW Field House.
Despite entering the week ranked No. 4, the Badgers were unable to defend home court against in-state rival Marquette (5-1).
In 20 previous matchups with the Golden Eagles, the Badgers never lost. That all changed Thursday when the Badgers fell in five sets, 25–22, 25–22, 27–29, 30–32, 9–15. Despite winning the first two sets, Wisconsin dropped the final three en route to their first-ever loss to Marquette.
Even in the loss, the Badgers impressed as a team. Four players finished with double-digit kills, including junior Dana Rettke who shared a match-high 22 kills to go along eight blocks. The difference-maker was Marquette’s ability to finish late, as they finished with a 14-kill advantage (81–67).
The match looked like it was going to be all Wisconsin for the 21st straight match between the teams, but Marquette found their groove in the third set and never let up.
Head Coach Kelly Sheffield particularly noticed the defensive shift from the first two sets of the match to the last three sets.
“We blocked them a lot early and we weren’t late,” Sheffield said. “They were hitting under .100 after the first two sets and over .400 in the last three. It came down to us not being able to stop those guys.”
After a disappointing Thursday, the Badgers came out on Friday looking to get back to their winning ways. Unfortunately for them, Baylor (5-0) had other ideas, winning in four sets by scores of 25–22, 22–25, 25–27, 17–25.
Similar to Thursday night, the Badgers pulled off a first set win before losing three straight to the Lady Bears. The Bears’ offense was too much to handle for the Badgers, as they outhit the Badgers with a .285 hitting percentage compared to just .215 for Wisconsin.
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Rettke put up 11 kills and eight blocks, while junior Sydney Hilley had her first double-double of the season and 25th of her career, finishing with 40 assists and 13 digs.
Senior Tiffany Clark, who led the team with 15 digs, explained that the two losses might be a good thing for the Badgers.
“It’s good that this happened early in the season,” Clark said. “Now we know where our weaknesses are and now we can grind on them in practice. I’m excited for the opportunity we have next week to play.”
Clark’s take on the game perfectly encompasses what most Wisconsin players and fans are probably feeling right now — disappointment paired with hope as the team figures out their identity and moves forward.
While Wisconsin looked amazing in their first two games, not dropping a set to either Florida State or North Carolina, the Badgers got a wake-up call playing two tough ranked opponents. They will look to turn things around this weekend at the Clemson Invitational, where they will play South Carolina and Clemson back-to-back, Friday and Saturday.