There’s only one way to mess up Senior Night and the University of Wisconsin volleyball team wasn’t about to let that happen.
The No. 5 Badgers took the possibility of losing out of the equation pretty early as they rolled to a 25-18, 25-13, 25-15 sweep of Iowa before a full house Friday night at the UW Field House.
Junior Dana Rettke made sure it was going to be a festive occasion for the Badgers (20-5, 16-1 Big Ten) with one of her most dominant matches of the season. The 6-foot-8 middle blocker had a match-high 15 kills on just 22 swings, hitting .591, while recording eight blocks, one dig and one assist.
“That’s Dana for you,” said Madison Duello, one of five seniors honored after the match, along with Tiffany Clark, M.E. Dodge, Sarah Dodd and Mallory Dixon.
“It’s really cool to see how Dana has grown over the years,” Dixon said. “She’s taken on a bigger role this year and I think tonight is a perfect example of that. She’s able to lead in her actions and the way she plays volleyball.”
Rettke’s partner in the middle, redshirt sophomore Danielle Hart, also had a big match as she equalled her career high of 11 kills on just 16 swings to hit .688.
Clark said she reminded her younger teammates the best thing they could do for the seniors was to play up to their ability.
“We were talking to the rest of the team and saying the greatest gift you can give us for Senior Night is to be ready to play,” Clark said. “It’s real easy to get caught up in all the distractions that tonight offers, all the family, all the pomp and circumstance. But I thought we did a really good job focusing and zeroing in.”
Iowa (9-19, 3-14) actually got off to a good start and led 13-12 in the first set. But the Badgers took control and finished the set on an 13-5 run and outscored the Hawkeyes 63-33 the rest of the match.
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With the Badgers dominating the last two sets, coach Kelly Sheffield was able to substitute liberally, an option that may not present itself in the regular-season home finale against No. 6 Nebraska on Sunday.
“We’ve got more volleyball to play and more volleyball in the Field House,” Sheffield said. “But these are five people who have given everything of themselves for this program. They’re everything that is right about being a student-athlete.
“It was awesome to see almost everyone staying around for the presentation. The place was still packed at the end and I think it says a lot about these five and their ability to inspire people.”
Those who stuck around also got to see Dodge, a defensive specialist, get her first kill of the season and just the fourth of her career as she subbed in at outside hitter for the last couple points of the match.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Dodge, whose previous three kills came mostly by accident on back row attacks. “Kelly looked at me right before we went back out to end the third set and said, ‘Do you want to swing?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I was honestly more focused on the pass and if she sets me, she sets me. I was like, I do this all the time in practice, so I might as well just go for it and I did. It was so much fun.”
Iowa 18 13 15
Wisconsin 25 25 25
IOWA (kills-digs-blocks) — Boyer 0-5-0, Buzzerio 8-6-1, Johnston 0-11-0, Lowes 0-2-0, Hansen 1-0-2, Jones 5-2-3, Hughes 6-1-0, Bushman 0-2-0, Slagle 0-5-0, Clayton 2-0-2, Schmidt 7-1-1. Totals 29-35-5.
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Barnes 0-7-0, Hilley 0-10-5, MacDonald 0-0-0, Bell 0-2-0, Dodd 0-3-0, Ashburn 0-6-0, Duello 10-2-2, Rettke 15-1-8, Clark 0-9-0, Hart 11-1-2, Dodge 1-2-0, Loberg 7-1-1, Haggerty 6-4-3. Totals 50-48-11.
Hitting percentage — I .131, W .410. Aces — I 1 (Buzzerio), W 6 (Rettke 3). Assists — I 28 (Buzzerio 14), W 48 (Hilley 43). Att. — 7,052.