The 15th-ranked Illini proved to be too much for the Wisconsin volleyball team as the Badgers fell 25-18, 25-16, 25-23 in their penultimate regular-season match on Friday night in the UW Field House. With the loss, the Badgers (17-14, 7-12) put themselves in a must-win situation on Saturday night when they host 18th-ranked Purdue in order to make their 13th consecutive NCAA tournament.
I think we have to get that win if we want to get into the NCAA tournament, said UW coach Pete Waite of his teams match vs. Purdue tomorrow night. If we dont get it, we probably dont deserve it this year. And thats unfortunate to say, but its something that everybody strives for and wants to be there. And this team had those goals at the beginning of the year, but I dont think any of them realize the consistency and the level of play you have to sustain in the Big Ten.
The Illini (23-7, 14-5) recorded eight service aces and outblocked the Badgers 9-3 for the win. Sophomore Laura DeBruler led Illinois offense, recording a match-high 16 kills while adding three service aces.
Wisconsin was led by Caity DuPont with 11 kills while Brittney Dolgner added 10 kills. The Badgers put down 44 kills as a team, compared to 40 for the Illini, but Illinois hit .286 while Wisconsin connected on 20.3 percent of its attacks.
UW totaled only three blocks on the night, led by two from Elle Ohlander. Hillary Haen and Johanna Bangert both stuffed five shots for the Illini.
Wisconsin outdug Illinois 48-43 led by a match-high 15 digs from Kim Kuzma while the Illini were led by Kyle McCulley with 15 digs.
The Badgers had only two service aces on the night, while recording four service errors.
Some good ball and some bad, said Waite of his teams play. Within the bad, those are all points for the opponent. You just cant hand points over like that to be a really good team, to compete at the top of the Big Ten. At this point thats what were still trying to learn is to be consistent in all areas.
Wisconsin led by three points early in the first set, including at 13-10. The Illini rallied to tie the set at 14 off their only block of the set. Behind the play of DeBruler, Illinois outscored the Badgers 7-1 to take a 21-15 lead. The Illini outside hitter had 10 kills in the first period and hit .529 for the set. Two kills from Ohlander pulled the UW within five (23-18) but an Illini kill and a Badger hitting error gave Illinois the first set.
I thought actually in the first game we were up 15-13, so we actually did come out of the gates, said Waite of his teams early play. At that point, I think we came out of a timeout and we served it out of bounds. Then we made a couple passing errors and then the momentum swung to their side. And once it swung, they had the confidence and they kept going at us.
The Badgers struggled early in the second set, falling behind 10-2. Behind the serve of DeBruler, the Illini scored eight straight, including three service aces. Wisconsin trailed 19-7 but rallied behind the play of DuPont, who had three of her six kills in the set to pull the UW within seven (21-14). But it was too little too late as Illinois went up 2-0 with a 25-16 win.
After falling behind 13-7 in the third set, Wisconsin rallied to tie the score at 15. The set was tied seven more times, including at 22. Errors hurt the Badgers at the end of the period as they gave up two points, allowing the Illini to serve for match point at 25-22. A Dolgner kill held off one match point before a kill from McCulley gave Illinois the sweep.
Wisconsin wraps up its regular season on Saturday with a match against 18th-ranked Purdue at 7 p.m. in the UW Field House. The 2008 NCAA Tournament announcement will be held on Sunday at 9 p.m., live on ESPNU.