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Badgers sweep No. 20 Purdue in Big Ten opener

Game Photo
Purdue Wisconsin 3, 20 Purdue 0
UW Field House • Madison, Wis. • Attendance: 3,275

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
23 17 23 -- --
25 25 25 -- --
 Stats Leaders
Griffin - 7 Kills Thomas - 10
Nichol - 15 Assists Carlini - 31
Griffin - .143 Hit %
Nelson - .438
Fox - 11 Digs Morales - 13
Drews - 3 Blocks Nelson - 7
Jones - 2  Aces Thomas - 2
 Stats Comparison
 Kills 30 37
 Hitting Pct. .055 .156
 Assists 30 34
 Service Aces 3 5
 Digs 61 46
 Total Blocks 3 10.5
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Sept. 27, 2013

MADISON, Wis.-- For the second time this season, the Wisconsin volleyball team swept a ranked opponent, downing No. 20 Purdue 25-23, 25-17 and 25-23 at the UW Field House on Friday night. The Badgers opened Big Ten Conference play with a win, improving 12-1 overall and 1-0 in conference play. It was the first time since 2007 that the team has swept two ranked opponents as the Badgers also swept No. 17 Louisville on Sept. 7. 

“When you’re winning two of the games by two points, there wasn’t a lot that separated the two teams,” said first-year head coach Kelly Sheffield, who opened his Big Ten career with a win. “I thought we played pretty well for most of the match.

“I’m proud of them right now, but we know that there are a lot more challenges down the road. But we’ve answered the bell so far with being able to handle adversity, and that builds a team’s confidence.”

 Fast Facts
• Badgers outblock Boilermakers 10.5 -- 3
Thomas records double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs
• UW sweeps two ranked team for first time since 2007

The first set was close early and after being down 4-3, Wisconsin pushed forward and did not trail again during the set. Purdue (9-3, 0-1) kept within two points throughout the set, but a .111 hitting percentage (12 kills - 7 errors - 45 attempts) and four Badger blocks were enough to silence the Boilermakers. Freshman Haleigh Nelson led the Badger offense with five kills, hitting .625 (5-0-8). She ended with eight kills and hit .438 on the night.

“Haleigh Nelson gave us a really big lift, coming in and hitting .438 with seven blocks,” Sheffield said of Nelson in the match. “She was really physical up there and that’s what we need out of her. Her role is expanding and she’s taking it.”

Backed by the serve of Annemarie Hickey, Wisconsin jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set and did not look back. The Boilermakers were crippled by attack errors and finished the set with a negative .120 attack percentage (5-8-25). Along with hitting errors, a Purdue service error ended the set. Courtney Thomas helped solidify the win with three kills and two service aces.

The third set was close like the first, but the Badgers struggled to finish the match and almost blew an eight-point lead. After Wisconsin led 18-10, Purdue managed to comeback and pull within one at 21-20 and held off the first UW set point to pull within 24-23. But the Badgers pulled through to win it on a Boilermaker service error. Blocks proved key as the Badgers out-blocked the Boilermakers 4.5 to 1.0 in the set to give them the edge.

“(I was especially proud) of the end of game three,” explained Sheffield. “We had a massive lead and (Purdue) came charging back. Part of it was due to them doing things well and part of it was on some of our errors. We really could’ve collapsed there at the end of game three and I thought we showed some real toughness when toughness was needed to be able to close them out.”

The Badgers won with a balanced offense as four players recorded six-or-more kills. Courtney Thomas led all players with 10 kills and recorded a double-double, adding 11 digs. Deme Morales and Nelson added eight kills each, followed by Dominique Thompson with six putaways.

“I also think when everyone’s doing well across the board it aids in the enthusiasm and everyone is getting excited for each other, so it keeps the energy high,” said Nelson of the team’s balanced attack.

Wisconsin hit only hit .156 (37-18-122) in the match but Purdue was held to just .055 (30-24-110).  

Blocks were the X factor of the match with Wisconsin out-blocking Purdue 10.5-3. Nelson led all players with a career-high seven blocks.

Purdue outdug Wisconsin 61-46 with the Badgers being led by Morales with 13 saves. UW also finished with a 5-3 edge in service aces.

“I thought Deme Morales in the backcourt was just really, really good,” said Sheffield. “She handled the serve receive very well, and defensively she was fantastic.”

The Badgers continue Big Ten play on Saturday, hosting Indiana (8-4, 0-1) at 7 p.m. in the Field House. 

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