MADISON, Wis. — The No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers beat Rutgers and No. 24 Illinois this past week to remain undefeated in Big Ten play, likely moving them in to the No. 1 spot in the country.
Wisconsin traveled to Rutgers on Wednesday and beat the Terrapins 3-0.
The Badgers won the first set 25-6. Wisconsin counted 16 kills in the first set with an accuracy of .519 hitting percentage. Rutgers never was able to get anything going on offense, and couldn’t stop the Badgers on defense.
Wisconsin won the second set 25-11. The Badgers had five service aces and 15 kills. Rutgers managed to squeak out 7 kills. Wisconsin’s setter Lauren Carlini assisted her teammates 10 times.
The Badgers won the third set 25-11. Wisconsin’s defense kept Rutgers to a -.077 hitting percentage. Wisconsin had 13 kills with a .500 hitting percentage, to end the match with a .439 hitting percentage. Wisconsin’s defense blocked the ball five times.
The No. 24 Illinois Fighting Illini traveled to Madison Saturday night to face the Badgers.
Wisconsin’s offense was incredibly aggressive and powerful in the first set. Wisconsin took the lead 7-2 fast, and the Illini struggled to set up an offense. The offense had 15 kills with a .387 hitting percentage. A huge block from Carlini and Tionna Williams gave Wisconsin a 17-10 lead and the Illini couldn’t come back. Wisconsin won the set 25-15.
The Illini dominated the second set. Wisconsin played messy and couldn’t seem to get a play set up.
“It’s mostly a serve and pass game,” Wisconsin’s Amber MacDonald said. “In the first set, they weren’t serving very aggressively and we were passing nails every time. In the second set, they started to serve a little more aggressively and we struggled passing.”
The fans and the Badgers had less energy in the set. When Illinois took a large lead, the Badgers seemed nervous for the first time in Big Ten play. Illinois won the set 25-18, and the first glimpse of a Big Ten loss loomed in Badgers’ minds.
Both teams came out of the locker rooms after the break with confidence. The score was close throughout the first ten points. Illinois managed to take the lead 15-12. Badger fans got nervous as the set wore on and communication issues seemed to shake the Badgers. Wisconsin’s Coach Kelly Sheffield called a timeout when Illinois took the lead 23-17.
Illinois called a timeout after Wisconsin cut the lead to 23-19. After two attack errors from the Illini and a kill from Lauren Carlini, Illinois only led by one. Wisconsin tied the game at 24-24 in the next point after a service ace from MacDonald. Wisconsin won the set 26-24, and all the momentum shifted in the Badgers favor.
Wisconsin played with much higher energy in the fourth set. Wisconsin’s offense and defense were playing its strongest effort against the Illini. The set was close until Wisconsin started upping it’s energy and Illinois was forced to call a timeout. The timeout helped Wisconsin get its final push. Wisconsin won the fourth set 25-19.
“I liked how we played clean which we hadn’t really played clean most of the third and second set,” Coach Sheffield said. “Our serving got us back in to the match and we started playing defense and then we started feeling good about ourselves in the fourth.”
The No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers lost to Penn State on Wednesday. Wisconsin will likely move to the top of the Big Ten, and the country, this week. Wisconsin and Minnesota face off in Madison on Wednesday night.
Photo from uwbadgers.com.