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Wisconsin drops five-set battle to Northwestern

Oct. 28, 2012

Northwestern 3, Wisconsin 1
UW Field House • Madison, Wis.
Game Photo

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
25 24 9 25 16
11 26 25 18 14
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• Attendance: 2,391
 Stats Leaders
Holthus - 21 Kills Mitchell - 19
Shalter - 56 Assists Thomas - 39
Dutchman - .467 Hit %
Mitchell - .368
Chin - 18 Digs Hickey - 24
Dutchman - 4 Blocks Mitchell - 7
Paffen - 2  Aces Hickey/Morales - 3
 Stats Comparison
 Kills 66 54
 Hitting Pct. .273 .191
 Assists 56 45
 Service Aces 4 8
 Digs 86 66
 Total Blocks 6 11
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MADISON, Wis. – Both Wisconsin and Northwestern reigned dominant at times throughout Sunday’s match, but in the end it came down to a razor-close fifth set that ended 16-14 in favor of the Wildcats, handing the Badgers a 25-11, 24-26, 9-25, 25-18, 16-14 loss at the UW Field House.

“It’s definitely disappointing to take that loss today.  I think we missed an opportunity to separate ourselves from some of the teams in the conference with a win,” UW head coach Pete Waite said. “We rode a roller coaster of level of play – we were really good at times and off at other times. We needed to be more consistent in just about every category today.”

 Fast Facts
• The Badgers suffered one of their most lopsided losses of the season in the first set while also putting together one of their most dominating wins of the year in the third set.
• Wisconsin hit above .330 as a team in both the third and fifth sets.
• The Northwestern win marks just the ninth ever for the Wildcats in Madison.

After splitting the first four sets with each team dominating one set, the Badgers (16-9 overall, 4-8 Big Ten) and Wildcats (15-8, 4-8 Big Ten) played through 10 tie scores in the fifth and deciding set. Wisconsin took its biggest lead at 12-10 but Northwestern scored two straight for another tie. The Wildcats served for match point at 14-13 but a kill from Crystal Graff forced extra points.  NU scored on two straight kills to seal the victory.

“I just think in a fifth set, being up 12-10 is a huge advantage, but at times it can be also be a disadvantage because in the fifth set, things can change very quickly,” senior Alexis Mitchell said. “And I think we maybe got a little tense at that point and some bad things happened.”

Wisconsin struggled on offense, hitting just .191 (54 kills – 21 errors – 173 attempts) for the match after hitting negative the first set. Mitchell led the Badgers with 19 kills as the only Badger in double digits. Graff and Julie Mikaelsen both added eight kills for UW.

Northwestern hit .273 (66-21-165) as a team and had four players in double-digit kills led by Stephanie Holthus with a match-high 21.

The Badgers outblocked the Wildcats 11-6 led by seven stuffs from Mitchell but finished with a 20-dig deficit (86 – 66). Annemarie Hickey led all players with 24 saves.

UW also finished with eight service aces, led by three from Hickey and Deme Morales, while Northwestern scored on four aces, including two in set five.

Thomas meanwhile led the team in assists with 39 and fell just one dig short of her 12th double double on the season.

After a lopsided 25-11 first-set loss, the Badgers fell into an early hole to the Wildcats (15-8, 4-8) in the second set, trailing 8-1. Northwestern held that lead with a 12-5 advantage before Wisconsin awoke in the form of a match-changing 9-1 run that put the Badgers to within one point (13-12).

Morales gave Wisconsin its first lead of the match at 18-17 with a back-row kill while Thomas and Mitchell put the Badgers ahead by one at 24-23 with a monster block. NU fought off one set point but Wisconsin was not to be denied on its second attempt with Morales serving an ace for the 26-24 win.

It was role reversal time in the third set. After falling prey to a dominant Wildcats performance in the first set, the Badgers put on a similar clinic in the third set with a 25-9 win. UW and NU kept things close in the early going, with the Badgers ahead by just three at 9-6. But Wisconsin then claimed an incredible 16 of the last 19 points to seal the victory.

“After we got our confidence back after winning that second game, we knew that we are a good team and we’re capable of beating anybody,” Hickey said. “And I think that was the difference—having the confidence that we can win and we are a better team than we were playing.”

The Badgers hit .344 in the third set (12-1-32) as a team. Hickey served 11 times in the set, including a stretch of eight straight in the final 10 points that featured two service aces.

Wisconsin and Northwestern opened up the fourth set trading points with the Wildcats taking a narrow 10-9 lead early. From there Northwestern used a series of small runs to gradually open a larger lead, with the set culminating in a 25-18 NU victory to tie the match at 2-2.

“We definitely geared up as we got going,” said Waite. “In the second (set), we had to fight for that one, got it, really grabbed the momentum and went into the third (set) and crushed them. We came back in the fourth and did not maintain that consistency. Northwestern got back on track and they pulled it out.“

The loss gives Wisconsin and Northwestern a season split after the Badgers took care of the Wildcats 3-1 in Evanston to open up Big Ten play in late September. The loss also dropped UW into a three-way tie for eighth place in the conference standings while a win would have moved it up to sixth place.

“It’s one thing if you play a great game and you’re down to the wire and lose to a team but we were so up and down,” said Waite. “We have to stay playing the good consistent ball that we know we are capable of to compete in the Big Ten because anybody can beat you any day of you’re not consistent.”

Wisconsin now takes to the road for the next two weekends, beginning with a pair of trips to No. 20 Ohio State and No. 1 Penn State next Friday and Sunday.

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