Wisconsin still searching for 1st conference win

first_imgAfter 11 straight wins to start the season, the Wisconsin volleyball team is experiencing the other end of the spectrum. Wisconsin volleyball lost its fourth consecutive conference match Friday night, ending a four-game home stand for the team.The Badgers (11-4, 0-4) were defeated by the No. 25 ranked Northwestern Wildcats (13-1, 3-0) in three sets (20-25, 24-26, 24-26).On the strength of excellent blocking, scrappy all-around defense, and strong serving, the Wildcats swept the Badgers and remained undefeated in conference play.Blocking had been an issue plaguing the team throughout the year, but Northwestern exploited the weakness, out blocking the Badgers 13.5 to two.“We need to fight harder to get our hands around the net and slow the opponent down,” head coach Pete Waite said. “For the blocking stats to have 13.5 for them and two for us is pretty anemic, that’s something that we really have to shore up, we have to be real animals at the night.”Leading the frontcourt attack for the Wildcats was middle blocker Sabel Moffet, who led the team with seven blocks and finished second with 11 kills.“Moffet’s one of the fastest middles in the Big Ten and one of the fastest in the country so you just try to slow her down a little bit,” Waite said. “Again, you have to serve well to keep them out of that, but when you’re passing well, and [they are] very good passing team, it lets them run just about anything they want. We had our block and our defense set up to try to slow her down, but they had a pretty balanced attack. That’s what usually wins you a match.”The Wildcats balance was apparent, with four hitters totaling eight kills or more.While the box score shows a sweep, Wisconsin certainly had their chances, leading both sets two and three 24-23 before surrendering three consecutive points and losing 26-23.The long volleys, especially late in the game, proved to be a difficult endeavor for the Badgers to recover from.“Especially when you win those [points], it’s a big momentum [swing], whether you’re down or up,” senior libero Kim Kumza said. “When you win on those points you can get two at least after that because you’re so excited and the reverse too.”Unfortunately for Badger fans, the success the team enjoyed was never sustained.Despite the loss, the Badgers two outstanding freshman, Elise Walch and Julie Mikaelsen continued their strong play on the outside.Walch looked unstoppable at times, finishing with match-high 16 kills.Even more impressive was the effort by Mikaelsen. Despite being replaced in the starting lineup by Mary Ording, she was inserted midway through the Friday’s match accumulating nine kills in 11 attempts.“We didn’t start her tonight and she came off the bench to get those numbers, which is really fantastic,” Waite said. “Mary had been doing a good job in practice and she deserved to start a couple matches, but we needed a momentum change and Julie came in to give us energy and a lot of great kills. Hitting .727 and not playing the whole match is phenomenal.”Successful hitting by Walch and Mikaelsen did not translate to great team hitting for Wisconsin, as senior Allison Wack continued her struggles.Wack finished with only six kills in 27 attempts as the Wildcats focused much of their blocking attention to her side, and made some great digs on the shots that did get through.“I think that part of that is our passing was a little off, especially early,” Wack said. “They definitely were digging a ton of balls too, the balls I was getting through the blocks, they would come up with these huge digs and that’s momentum for them. I think they just did a great job defending on all angles.”Following a string of six consecutive home matches, the Badgers will hit the road and take on Michigan State and Michigan this week.Although the team has struggled so far in conference play, Waite feels confident the team can turn things around.“The Big Ten is tough and we knew that, but we’re very capable and we definitely have the talent, we just have to have the execution.”last_img read more