EAST LANSING, Mich. — As he looked ahead to a weekend without All-American Dana Rettke, University of Wisconsin volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield cautioned his players to not feel any pressure to raise their game in her absence.
“We don’t have to do more,” he said. “We have to do our job to the best of our ability.”
The No. 6 Badgers did just that Friday night as they rolled to a 25-19, 25-16, 25-21 victory against Michigan State.
Redshirt junior Molly Haggerty had 14 kills, hitting .306, and junior Grace Loberg added 12, hitting .308, as the Badgers (13-4, 9-0 Big Ten) won their second consecutive match without Rettke, who is sidelined by a foot injury. The 9-0 start is the best in conference play for UW since 2007.
While it would be easier to sustain that pace with Rettke on the floor, it’s significant that the Badgers have been able to overcome her absence so far.
“She’s obviously a special player,” Sheffield said. “But these guys know that it’s not just a one-person show. A lot of players have developed their game and they’ve got confidence in themselves to be able to get the job done.
“You’ve got to play a little bit cleaner when she’s out. You don’t have kind of an automatic type of deal. I’m not so sure we necessarily could’ve done that a year ago.”
The Badgers hit .303 for the match against a Michigan State defense that had held Big Ten opponents to a .157 hitting percentage in its first eight matches, second best in the conference. The Spartans (13-6, 4-5) also ranked second in blocks at 2.81 per set.
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“They have a lot of size up there,” Sheffield said. “This is a really good defensive team. It’s hard to score against them.
“I thought our attackers were really smart, especially our two lefts. I thought Grace and Molly played really smart up there against a really big block. When the opportunity to terminate was there, they did. And when it wasn’t they lived to see another day.”
The Badgers also dominated the serve-pass game, recording eight aces for the fourth consecutive match. During that span the Badgers have a 32-6 edge in aces. Freshman Izzy Ashburn led the way with four aces.
“The thing that I liked about the serving is we had quite a few service errors early and sometimes when you do that you can get spooked and lose your confidence behind the service line,” Sheffield said. “We didn’t do that as a team. We stayed aggressive, we kept working balls into space and put in some really good balls. Their setters were on the run the entire night.”
Wisconsin 25 25 25
Michigan State 19 16 21
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Haggerty 14-4-0, Loberg 12-2-2, Hart 7-0-4, Duello 5-2-0, Shanahan 2-0-1, Hilley 1-12-2, Barnes 0-8-0, Ashburn 0-8-0, Clark 0-8-0, Dodge 0-2-0. Totals 41-46-5.
MICHIGAN STATE (kills-digs-blocks) — Norris 11-6-1, Kabengele 8-4-1, Gros 4-1-1, Monks 3-1-4, Johnson 3-0-1, Poljan 3-1-0, Chronowski 2-0-1, Shklyar 1-2-0, Alford 0-2-0, Cox 0-14-0, McLean 0-9-0. Totals 35-40-5.
Hitting percentage — W .303, MS .151. Aces — W 8 (Ashburn 4), MS 2 (Norris, Cox). Assists — W 38 (Hilley 31), MS 35 (Shklyar, Alford 15). Att. — 3,450.