Tiffany Clark spurs rally that sends Wisconsin volleyball team past Florida State
MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Wisconsin volleyball team was reeling.
After watching a feisty Florida State team run off the last six points to win the first set, the Badgers were staring at a 19-15 deficit in the second set. And it looked as if it was going to get worse when a Seminole shot ricocheted off UW’s Molly Haggerty and headed for the cheap seats at the Target Center.
But junior libero Tiffany Clark set chase and got to the ball, keeping it in play and leading to a UW point. That was followed by two stuff blocks, and just like that, the No. 9 Badgers were on their way to a 23-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-22 victory in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“It was a total momentum changer,” coach Kelly Sheffield said of Clark’s play. “Now instead of our kids being frustrated about how we’re playing or the possibility we could be down 0-2, now they’re cheering for her.
“There’s no quit in Tiff. She’s not going to stop and just let a ball go, she’s going to make every effort she can.”
All in a day’s work, Clark said.
“It was a play all bros make, just another day at the office,” she said. “I love contributing to the team and trying to get them fired up and I thought the belief on our team was really good.”
Watching from the sidelines at that time, Madison Duello could feel the energy shift with that play.
“That definitely brought us together,” Duello said. “I was mentally running with her. I was trying to help her go faster and get it. That’s definitely a Clark kind of play. That really turned it around.”
After cruising to a dominating victory over North Carolina the night before, Sheffield figured he would learn more about his team against a Florida State team that is considered among the three best outfits in the ACC.
“We got better as the match went on,” he said. “We stayed in the fight. We wouldn’t have found a way to win that match a year ago.
“We’re going to take the positives out of this and there’s so much we can learn from this match. If you can win and learn, that’s really good stuff.”
One thing they learned is that they can still find a way to win when three of their primary hitters — Dana Rettke, Tionna Williams and Grace Loberg — are each hitting under .100. Duello, who was relatively quiet against North Carolina, stepped up with a team-high 15 kills and hit .379, the best percentage for anybody on either team.
“Madison was doing what fourth-year players should do,” Sheffield said. “There were moments when she carried us.”
Duello said the match, while not dominant like the previous night, should prove more beneficial to a team that’s trying to prove it can persevere in challenging situations.
“Both wins feel good but I think this one is really going to stick,” Duello said. “It helps us for further in the season. Last year, to be honest, I don’t know if we would’ve won a game like that where we’re up in the first set and lost. I think last year’s team probably would’ve lost that match, but we have a different mindset.”
Developing that mindset has been a major focus of the Badgers’ preparations for this season.
“The thing we wanted to improve on from last year is eye contact,” Clark said, “really looking each other in the eye and saying ‘I believe in you, I know you’ve got this.’ We talk about confidence so much, boosting our self esteem. I think that was really big turning point for that.”
From Sheffield’s standpoint, it was the kind of effort that defines the school’s athletic culture.
“Those gritty performances, that’s Badger athletics,” he said. “You want teams that are just going to stay in the fight and give themselves a chance by just grinding and grinding. And we did, so that’s something that you leave here feeling really good for the kids because they worked really hard for that win. They dug deep for that.”
Florida State 25 24 23 22
Wisconsin 23 26 25 25
FLORIDA STATE (kills-digs-blocks) — Burkert 0-11-0, Ambrose 16-14-4, Murray 8-5-5, Knuth 5-2-6, Caffrey 19-20-2, Williams 2-2-2, Roberts 0-2-0, Tietjens 0-2-0, Jackson 1-0-0, Sullivan 0-3-0, Ell 0-2-0, Wicinski 0-19-0. Totals 51-82-11.
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Hilley 4-14-2, Williams 6-0-4, Rettke 8-2-6, Dodge 0-12-0, Loberg 13-15-3, Haggerty 10-10-0, Dodd 0-0-0, Duello 15-1-5, Clark 0-14-0, Hart 0-0-1. Totals 56-68-11.
Hitting percentage — FS .148, W .169. Aces — FS 4 (Caffrey 2), W 8 (Hilley 4). Assists — FS 50 (Burkert 28), W 50 (Hilley 45).