Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Defense leads way in bright start to Big Ten play

The Wisconsin volleyball team displayed a surprising defensive prowess to drive the team to its best start in conference play in six years.

The Badgers swept its second ranked opponent of the season in No. 20 Purdue and defeated Indiana over the weekend to open league play 2-0, largely due to defensive performances from unexpected places.

Junior outside hitter Deme Morales, normally an offensive threat, led the team in digs with 13 against Purdue and added seven digs against Indiana.


Head coach Kelly Sheffield said defense has not been a strength of Morales in the past, but she has improved her digging this season.

“I thought Deme Morales out of the backcourt was really, really good,” Sheffield said. “They put a lot of pressure on her – they were going after her a lot. She handled the serve-receive really well. Defensively, I thought she was fantastic.”

Sheffield also praised the play of freshman middle blocker Haleigh Nelson. The 6-foot 3-inch North Carolina native totaled seven blocks against Purdue and six against Indiana.

Nelson said all of the Badger blockers were on the same page against Purdue, and felt like they were able to read Purdue’s offensive attackers well.

Morales said the effectiveness of the blockers made digging balls in the back court much easier.

“The blocks put up awesome blocks,” Morales said. “They make our job easier. Without them, I would never be able to dig that way.”

Sheffield said blocking has not been a strength of the team this season. The Badgers are averaging 2.2 blocks per set this season, but the team put up 17.5 blocks over the weekend, 10.5 of them coming against Purdue.

While the number of blocks slowed in the win over Indiana, defensive stops came in key moments. Toward the end of game three, the Badgers put up three blocks in five points en route to a dominant 25-16 win.

Freshman setter Lauren Carlini added a couple of blocks of her own and led the team with 12 digs against Indiana. She said Wisconsin had a tough time blocking earlier in the match because of Indiana’s high and accurate attacking, but the team was able to read Indiana’s shots in later games.

Carlini said earning points on blocks helped swing the energy in favor of Wisconsin.

“Whenever it’s a close game, when either team gets a block, it’s a definite momentum changer,” Carlini said. “When we get blocks in those key times, it’s great because everyone on the court gets pumped up.”

Sheffield said he never praises setters for their defensive skills, especially freshmen, but thinks that Carlini has been a special case.

“I’ve never said this about a setter because I think they’re all horrible defensive players, but she is a really good back court digger,” Sheffield said. “She’s got great instincts and pursues the ball hard.”

Sheffield said Indiana purposely attacked Carlini so she would not have the opportunity to set Wisconsin’s attackers on the second touch.

Carlini said many of Indiana’s attacks were directed at the back-right area of the court, which was Carlini’s territory. She said Indiana intentionally tried to stay away from sophomore libero Taylor Morey because of her strong digging, but Carlini played effective defense because of her ability to evaluate Indiana’s offense.

“It’s just being in the right place at the right time and kind of adjusting and reading,” Carlini said.

Sheffield said the team did a poor job digging in the first two games against Indiana. He said the defenders in the back court had some miscommunication and weren’t pursuing balls with enough urgency.

The Badgers allowed the Hoosiers to attack at a .448 attacking clip in the second game. Indiana won that game by six points. But Wisconsin made some adjustments to the game plan before game two by setting the offense more around the middle blockers and having the back row defenders forcefully pursue Indiana’s attacks. UW held Indiana to -.069 and .083 hitting percentages in the third and fourth games, respectively.

Sheffield acknowledged that Indiana’s athleticism gave Wisconsin trouble early in the match, and said that Indiana played its system effectively. He said his team was able to turn the match around with more aggressive serving and defense.

“We pursued those seam balls a lot better in [games] two and three,” Sheffield said. “That’s why you saw their hitting percentage drop down.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *