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LINCOLN, Neb. — The University of Wisconsin volleyball team had Nebraska on the ropes here Saturday night but couldn’t come up with the knockout punch.

The No. 7 Badgers won the first two sets but the No. 8 Cornhuskers came out after intermission and swept the last three sets to pull out a 22-25, 17-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-8 victory.

UW coach Kelly Sheffield was disappointed with his team’s ball control in the final three sets and he thought his players got a little too cautious as the match went on.

“This is just a great experience for our kids,” Sheffield said. “We’ll learn. But bottom line is, ball control is one of our strengths. We feel like we’re one of the best passing teams in the country and the game kind of got going a little bit, this place got loud and I didn’t think our kids responded real well with ball control and passing.

“Then I didn’t think we were aggressive enough attacking. There were so many that we were just putting shots in play and they were taking big rips at the ball. I thought offensively we were a little bit scared of making mistakes.”

Senior Kelli Bates had a season-high 20 kills to lead the Badgers (11-2, 2-2 Big Ten), whose two losses have come in five sets.

“I thought Kelli was great,” Sheffield said. “She kind of struggled in the third set but I’m real proud of the way she responded and climbed out of that and finished strong.”

Senior Lauryn Gillis had 13 kills, while junior Tionna Williams and freshman Dana Rettke had 11 each. The Badgers hit .194, while the Cornhuskers (11-3, 4-0) hit .193. Senior Annika Albrecht led Nebraska with 18 kills.

The Badgers took command early in the first set, opening up a 19-12 lead before the Cornhuskers got back into it with a 5-0 run to make it 19-17. UW was hanging on at 23-22 but then finished it off with a kill by Williams, her sixth of the set, and a block by Madison Duello and Sydney Hilley on set point.

In the second set the Badgers took control with a 10-2 run in the middle of the set that turned an 11-11 tie into a 21-13 lead.

But after the intermission the Cornhuskers came out sizzling as they jumped 8-2 lead and dominated until the Badgers put together a 5-0 run to delay set point.

The Badgers took an early 7-2 lead in set 4, but the Cornhuskers answered with an 8-0 run. The teams battled back and forth but Nebraska finished it off with back-to-back kills by Mikaela Foecke.

Nebraska had a 6-1 run in the fifth set to open up an 11-6 lead and cruise to the victory.

Wisconsin 25 25 20 23 8

Nebraska 22 17 25 25 15

WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Hilley 3-10-3, Gillis 13-5-1, Bates 20-10-1, Dodd 0-11-0, Williams 11-0-4, Rettke 11-1-6, MacDonald 0-3-0, Duello 1-0-4, Clark 0-17-0, Dodge 0-10-0, Loberg 0-1-1. Totals 59-68-11.

NEBRASKA (kills-digs-blocks) — Foecke 15-9-2, Hunter 3-1-1, Townsend 0-17-0, Holman 13-2-4, Albrecht 18-12-2, Stivrins 8-3-5, Maloney 0-13-0, Sweet 4-1-2, Boender 0-1-0, Densberger 0-2-0. Totals 61-71-10.

Hitting percentage — W .194, N .193. Aces — W 6 (Duello 3), N 3 (Townsend 2). Assists — W 56 (Hilley 51), N 54 (Hunter 47). Att. — 8,453.


Dennis Punzel covers Wisconsin Badgers volleyball, women's basketball for the Wisconsin State Journal.