MADISON, Wis. — The No. 3 Minnesota Golden Gophers swept the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers, handing Wisconsin its first loss of conference play.
Minnesota dominated most of the match. Both teams played great volleyball in the first few points of the first set. Both teams played with confidence and precision. It was evident these were two of the best teams in the country. However, Minnesota started pulling away in the middle of the first set. Wisconsin Coach Kelly Sheffield called a timeout after Minnesota’s Tapp and Seliger-Swenson blocked Wisconsin’s ball and extended their lead, 19-12. Wisconsin came out of the timeout playing great volleyball, but Minnesota managed to squeak out the win, 25-20, on a great kill from Hannah Tapp. Minnesota held the Badgers to a negative .029 hitting percentage.
Minnesota came out in the second set just as aggressive as the first. The second set was very similar to the first. Both teams played beautiful volleyball, however Minnesota’s offense was too aggressive for the Badgers. Minnesota hit with a .452 hitting percentage, the highest of any Badger opponent thus far this season. Wisconsin’s ball control was spotty, which made it hard for the Badgers to get a play going on offense. Minnesota played incredibly strong on offense. Minnesota won the set, 25-18.
Wisconsin came out after the break looking defeated. The Badgers were down 0-2 and the first potential loss of Big Ten play loomed over them. Even though the team looked defeated, the team played as hard as possible. For every shank pass, the team ran after it full speed ahead.
Minnesota dominated the third set. It was a well-played set, though the long rallies often went in favor of the Gophers. Kelli Bates was held to a negative .333 hitting percentage. Whenever she went up to kill the ball, a Minnesota defender was ready to prevent her from scoring.
Minnesota shut down the Badgers on offense and defense. The Gophers won the third set, 25-14. It was the first time an opponent swept the Badgers at home since September 2014 when Penn State came in and beat the Badgers 0-3.
“We stayed together,” Wisconsin setter Lauren Carlini said. “They played a bit more efficiently and cleaner than we did. We dug ourselves into five, six point holes in the beginning of games and then we would start picking it up towards point 15. By then it was too late. We waited a little too long to play clean.”
This was the first time in program history the Badgers sat at the No. 1 position of the country.
“I don’t think [our ranking] is a distraction. I don’t think that was something we were thinking about going in to this game,” Wisconsin’s Kelli Bates said. “What we were thinking about was Minnesota and what we need to do to defend and what we need to do to win. And unfortunately, they just out-played us. They just played cleaner than we did. We don’t put much thought into our ranking any week.”
After this loss to Minnesota, Wisconsin is tied for third in the Big Ten with Minnesota. Penn State sits atop the Big Ten with a record of 6-0. Wisconsin travels to Ann Arbor to face the No. 18 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday.
Photo courtesy of uwbadgers.com.