Winning time has been anything but that for the University of Wisconsin volleyball team and coach Kelly Sheffield.
For the third time in three home matches, the No. 9 Badgers faltered down the stretch in sets as they fell to No. 10 Washington 23-25, 25-27, 25-19, 22-25 Thursday night at the UW Field House.
As in their previous homecourt losses to Marquette and Baylor, the Badgers were in position to win sets but were unable to close them out.
The worst of all came in the second set after losing a tough first set. The Badgers (4-3) took an early lead, sparked by a spectacular defensive play by libero Tiffany Clark, and looked to be on the verge of evening the match with a 24-20 lead. But the Huskies (8-1) fought off four set points, took a 25-24 lead and then prevailed to take a 2-0 lead.
It is a trend that troubles UW coach Kelly Sheffield.
“There’s no way around it, you can sugarcoat it but it was a tough loss because of how we lost,” Sheffield said. “We were outplayed from point 20 on. Giving up that lead in the second set, that was disappointing.
“There certainly seems to be (a trend). I can sit up here and say it’s not, but through three of our matches at home it certainly has been. We’re playing against teams that are playing really well against us and we’re having our moments. There are a lot of positives to take out of there, but you can’t give away so many points.”
The Badgers, normally efficient on offense, were guilty of 30 hitting errors — 16 more than the Huskies committed.
“Thirty hitting errors, that’s so uncharacteristic of this group,” Sheffield said. “When you’re seeing their sets where they’re having two, three, four and five attack errors and we’re having five, six, eight and 11, I didn’t have to get an advanced degree to figure out that’s going to put us behind the 8-ball.
“We’re playing an elite team and if you’re going to beat them you can’t give away as much as we gave. We gave away too much.”
Redshirt junior Molly Haggerty led the Badgers with 19 kills, but she also committed a team-high 12 attack errors. Junior Dana Rettke added 15 kills, seven of them coming in the third set when the Badgers looked as if they might get back into the match.
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Junior Grace Loberg added 13 kills and redshirt senior Madison Duello, returning to the lineup after missing three matches, added nine.
Washington was led by senior Kara Bajema with 19 kills.
“She’s pretty darn good,” Sheffield said of Bajema. “She’s got a big arm and she hits with range.”
The Badgers won’t have much time to make any adjustments as they meet the Huskies in a rematch Saturday night in Seattle.
But Sheffield emphasized that they were only outscored by one point in the match.
“When they were scoring those points made a difference,” he said. “They were outscoring us there at the end and we have to play a cleaner brand of volleyball. So learn and move on.
“This is a good team. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us and we’re certainly not going to fall into that either. It’s not about us trying harder. This team works hard in practice. It comes down to, are you going to make the plays a little bit more than your opponent does?”
Washington 25 27 19 25
Wisconsin 23 25 25 22
WASHINGTON (kills-digs-blocks) — Sanders 5-1-4, McPherson 0-21-0, Niece 3-2-10, Powell 2-2-5, Bogomolova 0-0-0, Drechsel 9-1-0, Crenshaw 0-2-0, Onosko 0-4-0, Bajema 19-11-7, Hoffman 18-15-0. Totals 56-59-14.
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Barnes 0-12-0, Hilley 2-13-1, Ashburn 0-12-0, Duello 9-3-5, Rettke 15-2-5, Clark 0-15-0, Hart 5-0-2, Dodge 0-6-0, Loberg 13-4-0, Haggerty 19-6-0. Totals 63-73-7.
Hitting percentage — Wa .276, Wi .208. Aces — Wa 5 (Bajema 2), Wi 7 (Ashburn 3). Assists — Wa 52 (Powell 43), Wi 59 (Hilley 50). Att. — 7,052.