The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers beat the No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions for the first time since 2011 on Friday night. Wisconsin swept Rutgers Sunday afternoon.
Before Friday night, Wisconsin had lost 17 of its past 18 matches against Penn State. The seniors were 0-6 against the Nittany Lions. Wisconsin came over the hurdle and beat Penn State 3-1.
Both teams started the match with service errors, though things turned around quickly. Penn State took the lead, but Wisconsin trailed by only two points. Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini and Tionna Williams had a huge block to give Wisconsin the lead 7-6, and the crowd went wild.
Offense was the story in the first set. Penn State’s offense played extremely well in the beginning. It looked as if Penn State was going to dominate the set, but Wisconsin’s offense went on a rampage against Penn State. Wisconsin’s offense hit 20 kills with a .667 hitting percentage. Wisconsin won the set 25-16. The team and fans were fired up, and each point was met with huge celebration from everyone.
Offense was the story again in the second set. Wisconsin had 19 kills at a .452 hitting percentage. Wisconsin took the lead, though Penn State fired back and led by three at the 10-13 mark. Badgers fans seemed on edge, though the Wisconsin players remained confident on the court. Wisconsin tied the game at 13 after an aggressive kill from Molly Haggerty. Penn State took the lead again, but Wisconsin tied the game once more at 15 all.
From there, Wisconsin led the rest of the set. Wisconsin capitalized on its momentum and forced a Penn State timeout at Wisconsin’s lead of 19-16. Wisconsin’s offense continued to control the game, and Wisconsin led 22-18 before Penn State called another timeout. It was too late. Wisconsin had two aggressive kills from Romana Kriskova and Lauryn Gillis, and Lauren Carlini won the set for Wisconsin on a service ace. Wisconsin won the set 25-18.
Penn State came out after the break and looked like a new team. The set was close in the beginning, but Penn State started to pull away after taking the lead. Wisconsin led 15-13, but Penn State went on a 7-0 run to lead the game 20-15. Penn State won the set 25-18. Wisconsin had seven errors, and the Badgers hit a .053 hitting percentage.
In the fourth set, Wisconsin took the lead right away, and led throughout. Once again, Wisconsin’s offense pulled through. The team had 19 kills at a .261 hitting percentage. The defense had three blocks, and kept Penn State’s hitting percentage to .136. The fourth set was close, but Wisconsin ultimately won 25-21.
Wisconsin’s Lauryn Gillis had a career high 21 kills in the match. Wisconsin had 73 digs, compared to Penn State’s 53 digs. Wisconsin had five service aces. Everyone in the Field House celebrated the win against Penn State for the first time since 2011.
“You see a lot of energy from these guys because that’s the one team they hadn’t beaten in this conference,” Coach Kelly Sheffield said. “It’s a good win. Certainly not anything that we’re surprised by. You look at the stats and see 20 more digs. I think that says a lot about the match right there. I thought we battled like crazy.”
Wisconsin beat Rutgers 3-0 on Sunday afternoon.
Wisconsin took the lead early in the first set and maintained its lead throughout. Rutgers was unable to defend against the Badgers’ offense. Wisconsin had 20 kills with a .429 hitting percentage. Wisconsin held Rutgers to seven kills at a .179 hitting percentage. Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini had 15 assists. Wisconsin won the set 25-14 on a service ace from Carlini.
Rutgers took the lead in the second set. Rutgers led 5-2, but Carlini had two kills in a row which helped bring a tie. The two teams switched off leads and ties for the next 15 plays. Wisconsin took the lead at 14-12 and kept it for the rest of the set. There were 10 tie scores and five lead changes, but Wisconsin won the set 25-18 on a net violation from Rutgers. Wisconsin’s Haleigh Nelson recorded her 1,000th career kill, becoming the 20th Badger to reach the milestone in school history.
The third set was close throughout. Once again, the two teams switched leads and ties for the first 24 plays of the game. Wisconsin built a lead at the 13-12 mark of the game. Wisconsin led 20-17 at one point, but Rutgers went on a 3-0 run to tie the game once again. Wisconsin took the lead back, but Rutgers kept within two points. Wisconsin finally won the set on a kill from Romana Kriskova. Wisconsin won 25-23, but there were nine tie scores and five lead changes. Lauren Carlini recorded her 5,000th career assist, becoming the third Badger to reach the milestone in school history.
Rutgers had 14 blocks on the match. Rutgers forced 25 total errors for Wisconsin.
“That’s a Rutgers team that played awfully clean,” Sheffield said. “They had six hitting errors, and a five percent attack error. Usually a really good night is about 13 or 14 percent so they were way under half of that. They didn’t give us very many points on service errors.”
With the two wins on the weekend, the Badgers move to second in the conference. Wisconsin sits behind the No. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers, who swept the Badgers last weekend in Lincoln. Wisconsin is 10-2 in conference play and 18-3 overall. Nebraska is 11-1 in conference play. Minnesota and Penn State are tied for third in the Big Ten with a record of 9-3.
Wisconsin travels to No. 19 Ohio State Wednesday, and hosts No. 24 Purdue next Saturday. Wisconsin has eight more regular season matches and sits in a good place in the middle of the Big Ten season. If the Badgers continue playing well, they can win the Big Ten title, though they have a tough schedule still ahead.
“This was a really good weekend for us,” Coach Sheffield said. “Friday took a lot out of us….We responded really well.”