UW volleyball team opens Big Ten with sweep of Ohio State
One of the University of Wisconsin volleyball team’s areas of emphasis this season was to improve its serving, both in terms of power and accuracy.
That effort served the No. 6 Badgers well in their Big Ten Conference opener Wednesday night as they put up 10 service aces in cruising to a convincing sweep of Ohio State 25-19, 25-17, 25-15 at the UW Field House.
“It’s something we practice every single day,” said redshirt sophomore Molly Haggerty, who accounted for four of those aces. “I think we’re being more mindful, instead of just getting the ball in play we’re trying to do something with it. It starts in practice and that just transfers over into games.”
It certainly has of late for Haggerty. After getting just one ace in the first five matches, she has recorded 12 in the past four.
For sophomore Dana Rettke, who contributed three aces, the issue has been serving accuracy. She’s raised her serving percentage from .777 as a freshman to .897 this season.
“I’ve been really working on consistency,” Rettke said. “And not just consistency, but serving good hard balls. I think I’m definitely a step up from last year but I still have a ways to go.”
And even when they weren’t getting aces on the Buckeyes, the Badgers were frequently forcing them out of system with their serves.
“Serving into space was an emphasis tonight,” coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We saw a lot of two-person patterns and I thought our servers did a really good job of putting some pressure on them with some good balls and making their passers move.”
The strong serving helped the Badgers (8-1, 1-0 Big Ten) put together five runs of at least four points in the match, while the Buckeyes (9-4, 0-1) were only able to string together more than two points one time.
“We did a really good job of siding out, with 75 percent for the match against a team like that,” Sheffield said. “I thought we did a really good job of not allowing them to get on too many runs of points. That was probably the biggest difference in the match.
“Each set we got on a run and we really limited their runs. That usually starts with a good first pass and a good choice by the setter. Both those things were fairly consistent.”
In the first set, the Badgers opened up a 12-8 lead on a 4-0 run that included an ace by junior Tiffany Clark. After the Buckeyes cut it to 20-18, UW responded with another 4-0 run behind the serving of redshirt junior Madison Duello to pull away.
Duello had an ace in a 6-0 run as the Badgers broke out to a quick 7-2 lead in the second set.
In the third set, UW had two 5-0 runs early on, with Duello serving in the first one and Haggerty getting two aces in the second as the Badgers raced to an 11-3 lead.
Rettke led the Badgers with 11 kills and Duello had nine. Each hit .421 for the match as the Badgers hit .269 as a team.
Sheffield credited sophomore setter Sydney Hilley with keeping things headed in the right direction.
“Syd did a really nice job of executing the game plan,” he said. “She put her hitters in good positions with her decisions.”
Ohio State hit just .124 as a team and two of its top attackers had rough nights. Sophomore middle Lauren Witte, who entered the match hitting .408, had just three kills and hit .000. Freshman right side Vanja Bukilic, coming off a career-high 18 kills against Dayton, had just two kills and hit minus-.154. Freshman Mia Grunze of Waterford led the Buckeyes with 10 kills.
“I thought our defense got better as the match went on,” Sheffield said. “I think we could’ve done a lot better job with the front row block. There were too many balls that were just hitting our hands that we should be stuffing.”
The Badgers will host Rutgers (6-8, 0-1) on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights were swept at Maryland on Wednesday.