The University of Wisconsin volleyball team knew it was going to face a tough challenge sooner or later. It turned out to be sooner.
After cruising to a convincing sweep over Purdue on Friday night and controlling the first set in the rematch on Saturday, the top-ranked Badgers encountered their first adversity in the second set.
Trailing by as many as five points on three occasions, the Badgers closed out with an 11-2 run and went on to sweep the No. 13 Boilermakers again 25-18, 25-21, 25-19 at the UW Field House.
“I thought we did a really good job of battling back in the second set,” coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We were down quite a bit and we showed some fighting spirit and cleaned up our game a little bit. I thought that was really big.”
Senior setter Sydney Hilley couldn’t agree more.
“We were down in the second set and I loved our fighting mentality there,” Hilley said. “I think that’s when it gets the most fun, when it gets intense, you’re down a little bit and the pressure’s on. I think that’s when we thrive.
“Those are the moments we look forward to. We just believe in each other and we go out and do what we can do. I loved how we did that tonight. We just stayed together and played free.”
Purdue jumped out to a 4-1 lead in set 2 and used a 5-0 run to open a 17-12 lead. The Boilermakers were up 19-14 when senior Grace Loberg, who had been replaced by freshman Jade Demps at the start of the set, returned and recorded a kill to start the decisive 11-2 run. Loberg would add two more kills in the run, with freshman Devyn Robinson and senior Dana Rettke also adding two kills each.
One constant both nights was the play of Rettke, who led the way with 14 kills. Redshirt senior Molly Haggerty chipped in with 12 kills.
Rettke got nine of her kills in the first set on 14 swings. She credited some intel gained from playing the Boilermakers the previous night.
“I looked at their defense on me and adjusted to that,” Rettke said. “But Syd was putting up good balls and I could literally do anything with that. Our passing was good and Syd’s an amazing setter so that makes it really easy for me to hit whatever shot I want.”
The Badgers hit .360 for the match, while holding Purdue to just .119.
“You’re going to learn a lot about the teams in that second match,” Sheffield said. “There are adjustments being made and really good teams on the other side of the net. We’ll learn some things and that’s part of the fun.
“We gave away too many points tonight. I’d say about 40 percent of their points were off of our errors. We gave away too much in the serve and pass game. But overall we did a lot of positive things.”
One of the primary areas of emphasis Saturday was to improve the block after getting just four team blocks on Friday. They responded with 10 on Saturday, with Rettke getting seven, including four solo blocks.
“I think we made good adjustments and our block definitely was set up in better positions today,” Rettke said. “I think our mentality was just go get the ball, go stuff the ball. When you’ve got your whole front row with that mentality you’re going to get some blocks. I was pretty proud how that came out.”
Purdue 18 21 19
Wisconsin 25 25 25
PURDUE (kills-digs-blocks) — Bush 0-6-0, Newton 9-4-0, Chinn 4-0-0, Schermerhorn 0-8-0, Hornung 0-10-0, Ellis 5-0-0, Koch 6-0-1, Trammell 5-1-0, Johnson 6-2-1, Otec 0-7-0. Totals 35-38-1.
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Barnes 0-8-0, Hilley 1-4-2, Hammill 0-0-0, Civita 0-11-0, Robinson 7-3-4, Ashburn 0-1-0, Demps 3-0-0, Rettke 14-4-7, Hart 1-1-3, Loberg 6-8-0, Haggerty 12-10-0. Totals 44-50-10.
Hitting percentage — P .119, W .360. Aces — P 6 (Newton 4), W 2 (Civita, Ashburn). Assists — P 30 (Bush 25), W 42 (Hilley 36).