UW sweeps Northwestern, turns attention to Illinois

first_imgIn its first Big Ten road match of the season, the Wisconsin volleyball team defeated Northwestern in straight sets Wednesday night.It took Wisconsin (11-2, 2-1 Big Ten) three sets to take down the Wildcats (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten) 25-20, 25-16 and 25-23.Northwestern didn’t wither against Wisconsin, battling for the majority of the match. In the third set, Wisconsin distanced themselves from Northwestern by going on a 6-1 run behind the play of senior outside hitter Ellen Chapman and sophomore middle-blocker Haleigh Nelson after the score had been tied at 10-10. Chapman had three kills during that stretch, while Nelson added two.It looked like Wisconsin would run away with the set after establishing a 21-13 lead, but Northwestern fought back. The Wildcats staved off five match-point attempts by the Badgers. Finally, freshman outside hitter Kelli Bates, who shared match-high kill honors with 13, slammed home the final point for Wisconsin.In the first set, it was Wisconsin who had the catching up to do. The Badgers fell behind 9-5, but battled back with six straight points, highlighted by three aces from sophomore setter Lauren Carlini. UW led for the rest of the set until a 17-17 tie, when the Badgers went on a 8-3 run to capture the first set.The Badgers dominated the second set. After getting out to a 8-5 lead, Wisconsin rattled off seven straight points to take a 1o point lead. Nelson had four kills during that stretch. The Badgers scored the final three points to secure the second set and take a 2-0 lead over the Wildcats.Carlini turned in a double-double with 38 assists and 11 digs. Junior libero Taylor Morey had a team-high 14 digs for the Badgers.Nelson accumulated eight digs, and her five blocks were also a match-high. Chapman had nine kills, while seniors Dominique Thompson and Courtney Thomas racked up seven kills apiece.UW hit for a .396 percentage, while holding Northwestern to a .243 hitting percentage.Following the takedown of the Wildcats Wednesday, Wisconsin will be on the road once again, this time traveling to Champaign, Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini of Illinois Saturday night.The No. 16 Illini faced off against No. 18 Minnesota Wednesday. Illinois beat Minnesota and is now 3-0 in the Big Ten, with their first two victories coming against conference newcomers Rutgers and Maryland. All three of their conference wins came in straight sets.Since dropping its two matches at the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge to UCLA and No. 1 Stanford, whom they played to five sets, Illinois has won eight out of its last nine matches. The lone loss was a five-set match against Virginia Tech. In that span, the Illini have won seven straight matches, and have lost only two sets during the stretch.“They have a really big front line,” Chapman said. “They’ve always been a scrappy team.”Illinois’ Jocelynn Birks is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week after her performances against Rutgers and Maryland last week. The redshirt junior outside hitter averaged 3.87 kills per set heading into Wednesday’s match. Opposite senior Liz McMahon adds 3.18 kills per set for the Illini.“They have this wave of offense comin’ at you constantly,” Sheffield said.“They’re experienced, they’re a team that’s won a lot over the years. Very good blocking team,” Sheffield added. “I think they’re one of the most physical teams in the country.”Leading the blocking brigade for Illinois is Watertown, Wisconsin-native Katie Stadick. The sophomore middle blocker averages 1.24 blocks per set, while redshirt senior middle blocker Anna Dorn averages 1.22.Freshman defensive specialist Brandi Donnelly digs 4.27 balls per set. Her performance at the Creighton classic earned her Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for last week.The Badgers are looking to avenge last season’s loss to the Illini. Illinois’ “Spike Squad,” the volleyball team’s devoted fan section, made the trip to the Field House for that match, during which Illinois won in four sets.This year, it will be much louder. Saturday night, Illinois fans will pack Huff Hall and attempt to break a 22-year old decibel level record, as part of the game’s theme, “IlliNOISE”.This won’t be Wisconsin’s first matchup in a loud environment. Their first match against a ranked opponent, which came on the road at then-No. 13 Colorado State, featured a crowd of 7,000 plus. The UW Field House has also had crowds averaging 4,303 attendees per match through only five home matches, good enough for third in the nation.The Badgers and Illini will get underway at 7 p.m. Saturday night in Champaign, Illinois.last_img