MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin volleyball team returned to the .500 mark in Big Ten Conference play on Saturday when it beat Northwestern by a score of 25-19, 19-25, 25-23, 25-20. The Badgers wrap up the first half of conference play in a tie for fifth place.
“That was a good win tonight,” said head coach Pete Waite. “We responded well after coming off the loss last night and we saw a much better offensive performance. The blocking was very strong and so that helped.”
The Badgers’ (10-9 overall, 5-5 Big Ten) offense returned to full form, after struggling on Friday against No. 8 Illinois. Three players scored double-digit kills as Brittney Dolgner led the way with 17. Kirby Toon scored 13 kills and Elle Ohlander put down 10. Toon also led all Badgers with a career-high .407 hitting percentage. Wisconsin hit .267 as a team, putting away 59 kills while Northwestern hit .224 and tallied 63 kills.
Janelle Gabrielsen directed the UW offense, putting up 46 assists, while adding eight digs and two blocks.
Ohlander helped slow Northwestern’s offense, stuffing a match-high seven shots, which also tied her season high. UW tied its season high in blocks with 14. The Wildcats had nine team blocks.
Kim Kuzma also had a strong defensive performance, totaling a match-high 19 digs. Dolgner tallied 13 digs.
Toon contributed heavily on both sides of the ball as she had a career-high five blocks and tied her career-high with 10 digs.
Wisconsin scored on six service aces, from six different players, and had only two service errors. The Wildcats had four aces.
Northwestern (11-11, 2-8) saw strong offensive production from its team, with four players scoring double-digit kills. Both Sabel Moffett and Alexandra Ayers scored 16 kills for the Wildcats, while Elyse Glab dished out 55 assists. The Wildcats did out-dig the Badgers (77-69) and had five players with double-digit digs. Kate Nobilio led Northwestern with 17 saves.
The Badgers jumped out to an early 11-5 lead in the first set after stringing together a 7-2 run. UW cruised to a 25-19 set victory and showed a vast improvement over Friday’s offensive woes, hitting .405 percent of their shots. Dolgner led all players with six kills.
Both teams continuously exchanged points in the second set until the score was tied at 10. The Wildcats began to pull away and went on a 7-2 run to take a 17-12 advantage. Wisconsin was unable to recover the deficit and dropped the set 25-19.
Northwestern once again pulled away in the middle of the third set, using a 4-0 scoring run to take a 17-13 lead. Down late in the set 22-17, the Badgers would claw back and make an 8-1 run, netting a 25-23 set victory. Neither team excelled offensively as Wisconsin hit only .064 percent of its shots, while Northwestern had a .042 hitting percentage.
“The turning point was in the third set when we were down late in the game,” Waite said. “That’s a pretty strong turn of events. It shows the composure of the team to hold them off and come back and get that. It really gave our team a lot of confidence going into the fourth [set]. We had a number of people step up offensively.”
With the score knotted up at 10 in the fourth set, the Badgers gained a two-point advantage to take a 12-10 lead. Wisconsin continued to work off of this lead and began to pull away as it soon controlled the match by a score of 22-17. The Badgers closed out the match with a 25-20 victory.
The Badgers open the second half of the Big Ten season on the road at Michigan and Michigan State next weekend.