MADISON — The No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers finish tied for second in the Big Ten with a record of 17-3 in conference play.
The Badgers beat Iowa 3-1 on Wednesday evening in their final home match of the season.
Wisconsin took the lead quickly in the first set and Iowa could not match up. Wisconsin dominated on both sides of the net, counting 18 kills at .424 percent and four blocks. Iowa struggled to make things happen on offense, recording nine kills at a .100 percent. Wisconsin won the set 25-15 on a kill from senior Romana Kriskova.
Iowa turned things around in the second set. The Hawkeyes capitalized on Wisconsin’s six errors, and used their two service aces as leverage to move over the Badgers. The score was tight throughout most of the set, though Iowa maintained the lead most of the time. Iowa led at 21-17 when Wisconsin went on a 4-0 run to cut the lead to two. Two kills later and Iowa led 22-21. Wisconsin was unable to use its momentum to take the lead. Iowa won 25-22 on a kill from Ashley Mariani.
Wisconsin had a slim lead in the third set, but went on a 5-1 run to build a solid five-point lead. Wisconsin won the set 25-16 on a kill from Tionna Williams, who lead Wisconsin in hits. Wisconsin hit 16 kills at .500 percent, compared to Iowa’s 12 kills at .132 percent. Wisconsin only had one error, compared to Iowa’s seven errors.
Wisconsin dominated the final set, making a statement on how the team will move forward in the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin completely shutdown the Hawkeyes’ offense, holding Iowa to a -.138 hitting percentage. Wisconsin won the set, and match, 25-7 on a block from Jordan Robbins and senior Tori Blake.
“I thought we came out and played really well,” UW Head Coach Kelly Sheffield said. “Iowa came out in the second [set] and upped their service game a little bit and we got kind of knocked back on our heels. I thought we responded great.”
The seniors had a great final match at home. Haleigh Nelson had 12 kills and six blocks. Romana Kriskova had five blocks, and Tori Blake had three kills. Lauren Carlini had 57 assists, along with seven digs and two blocks.
This senior class has been a part of great change for the Wisconsin Volleyball program. This is the 110th win for the senior class, ranking it third in UW program history. The group went to the national title game its first season. The Badgers finished in the top-10 three years straight, and are on their way to making that four straight.
Wisconsin fell to No. 2 Minnesota on Saturday night, losing a close five-set match.
The two teams swapped leads in the first set. Wisconsin squeaked out a lead after a 15-all tie, and lead down the stretch, though Minnesota kept the score close. Wisconsin won the set 25-22 on a block error from Minnesota’s Paige Tapp.
Wisconsin’s six errors hurt the team in the second set. Minnesota had the lead at 18-17 and went on a 7-0 run in the final points to secure the win. The Gophers won the set 25-17 on an attack error from Wisconsin’s Molly Haggerty.
Wisconsin completely shutdown Minnesota in the third set, holding the Gophers to their lowest score in a set all season. The Badgers had 19 kills, compared to Minnesota’s seven. A kill from Lauryn Gillis sealed the win for the Badgers. Wisconsin won the set 25-11 and took the match lead.
Minnesota rallied in the fourth set to tie the match score. The Gophers built a solid three or four point lead that they maintained through the set. Minnesota’s offense counted 20 kills at .415 percent. Wisconsin’s defense couldn’t match up. Minnesota won the set 25-17 after a kill from Alexis Hart.
Minnesota dominated the last set. The Gophers’ offense hit 12 kills at an extremely accurate .632 percent. Minnesota won the set, and match, 15-8 on a kill from Sarah Wilhite, who lead both teams with 23 kills.
“The team is bummed but I’m not even giving them the night,” Sheffield said. “We said that by the time they get on the plane tonight, the match is forgotten about. We’ve improved quite a bit since the previous time we saw them, so how much more improvement can we do in whatever time that we have together?”
Kelli Bates had 22 digs in the Minnesota match, moving her into the 1,000th career digs club in the UW program. Molly Haggerty had 17 digs and kills, counting her eighth career double-double with Wisconsin as a freshman. Lauren Carlini had a season-high 60 assists.
Nebraska won the Big Ten outright, with a record of 18-2 in the conference. Minnesota and Wisconsin tied for second in the Big Ten, with records of 17-3 in the conference.
Wisconsin is the third seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest in program history. The Badgers will play Howard, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions, on Thursday evening in the Field House. If Wisconsin wins the match, it will face the winner of the Washington State and Marquette match on Friday.
“I think Wisconsin volleyball is usually very strong at the end of the year,” Carlini said. “We always finish off the Big Ten season on a high note, so I think we are doing that right now. I think we’re getting our connections down and getting some things figured out, tweaking things here and there. Overall I think we’re in a great place. Let’s just keep rolling with it.”
“The most important quality going in to the tournament is how do you respond because you’re not going to keep a good team down for an hour and a half or two hours,” Sheffield said.
Wisconsin has been selected as the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest ranking in program history. The Badgers will play Howard (26-5), Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champs, in first-round match on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the UW Field House.