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Badgers stake claim to top of Big Ten after sweep of Huskers

first_imgThe Wisconsin volleyball team shucked the Nebraska Cornhuskers Sunday afternoon in front of a sold-out UW Field House, taking the match in straight sets (25-19, 25-21, 25-18).The win marked the first time Wisconsin (18-2, 9-1 Big Ten) defeated Nebraska (12-6, 6-3) since 1978, and snapped a 17-match losing streak against the Huskers.“I liked how we approached this match,” UW head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We weren’t on top of our game, but I thought what we did a great job [of] was moving on to next play, moving on to the next point, moving on quickly.”Sheffield said his team was hyped for this particular match because of its historical implications and former players watching the game at the Field House this weekend.“I think they like challenges, so when you find something that can kind of get them going a little bit they don’t blow that off,” Sheffield said. “I think this team also knows that there’s been a lot of really good teams that have come through here and a lot of good players. There was an awful a lot of alums in the building today, so part of that win is for those guys.”Nebraska has dominated the all-time series between the two teams with a 17-1-1 record against the Badgers.Senior right-side hitter Courtney Thomas, who had a team-high 10 kills, said the team was especially aware of the streak.“We knew about it. We talked about it in practice a little bit,” Thomas said. “The record being 17-1-1 and not winning since 1978 is a big deal, and I think it gives our team a lot of motivation to beat them, especially at home in front of a sellout crowd.”After Wisconsin ran away with the first set, the Badgers found themselves down 10-7 in set two. Senior Dominique Thompson and sophomore setter Lauren Carlini then teamed up for a block and Carlini added one of her career-high nine kills two plays later to cut the Husker lead to two at 11-9.Right after that, Carlini was in on the block again, this time with sophomore middle blocker Haleigh Nelson. After a kill from Nebraska sophomore outside hitter Amber Rolfzen, who led the Huskers with 10 kills, the Badgers tied it up following a Nebraska service error and a block from Nelson and Thomas.“I think we just had really good flow tonight, and that definitely helped with me being able to place the ball and see where the blockers are,” Carlini said. “I think I had good vision tonight on the court. It felt good to be able to attack, but it also feels good to set my hitters and have them get kills at the same time.”Carlini finished the match with 34 assists and seven digs.With the score tied 14-14, Thomas hammered a set from Carlini to give the Badgers a lead they wouldn’t give up the rest of the frame. Carlini extended the Badger lead to 19-15 four rallies later with a suffocating solo block, which brought the crowd to its feet and prompted Nebraska to burn another timeout.Out of the timeout, Nebraska scored three straight point to cut UW’s lead to one. Junior outside hitter Kelsey Fien had two of her nine kills for the Huskers in that stretch, as Wisconsin took a timeout of their own.A ball handling error by Carlini tied the set at 19 on the first rally after the timeout. When UW regained the lead at 22-20, controversy ensued in the match’s most pivotal moment. Carlini sent the second ball over the net rather than setting it, and the ball landed out of bounds on the far sideline. However, the officials ruled that a Nebraska player touched it, making it a Wisconsin point. Nebraska head coach John Cook, who coached at Wisconsin from 1992-1998, vehemently protested the call.“To be honest, I don’t really know,” Carlini said when asked what she saw on the play. “There were a few controversial calls at the end of the second game and I think that created a lot of frustration on their side. But we just continued to play our game and focus on the next point and didn’t worry about what happened in the past.”The set ended with a Carlini service ace. With momentum completely on Wisconsin’s side, Nebraska had little chance entering the third set.After falling behind 1-0 in the third, Wisconsin took the lead at 2-1 and never trailed again. Consecutive kills from senior outside hitter Ellen Chapman and Thomas gave Wisconsin their largest lead of the match at 18-10.Nebraska battled back with four straight points from that point, but that would be the closest they got. An ace from junior libero Taylor Morey ended the match and gave Wisconsin its ninth straight victory.However, Morey’s biggest contributions came on defense. She had 29 digs in the match, tying a career-high and setting the UW record for digs in a three-set match. She credited her success to the blockers.“I give a lot of credit to my blockers. Defense is, I always say it, a lot about mentality and just taking pride in your side of the court,” Morey said. “But it’s really easy to dig behind a good-formed block … After that, it’s just me giving my teammates easy opportunities to score.”Freshman outside hitter Kelli Bates finished seven kills, while the middle blockers Nelson and Thompson killed six balls apiece.Wisconsin is now halfway through its conference schedule and has won nine straight Big Ten games. With Sunday’s win, they sit atop the conference standings in sole possession of first place with a 9-1 conference record.“They don’t give any medals or cookies for people that finish first halfway through,” Sheffield said. “There’s a long part of the season, and we gotta continue to get better.”last_img read more

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