Molly Haggerty wasn’t quite up to participating in the University of Wisconsin volleyball team’s Sunday morning practice session.
She was more than ready by match time. The redshirt junior put away 16 kills to help propel the No. 5 Badgers to a sweep of No. 6 Nebraska 25-19, 25-22, 25-21 before a raucous sellout crowd at the UW Field House.
The victory gave the Badgers (21-5, 17-1 Big Ten) their first ever two-match season sweep of the Cornhuskers (23-4, 15-3) and puts them on the precipice of winning the conference championship.
UW can wrap up its sixth Big Ten title, and its first since 2014, with a victory Friday at Penn State. Road victories over the Nittany Lions and Rutgers also would make a strong case for the Badgers to earn a top four seed in the NCAA tournament that would allow them to host up to the final four.
None of which was on the Badgers’ minds as they swept the Cornhuskers for the second time this season.
“I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the future and what could happen,” junior setter Sydney Hilley said. “I thought we did a really good job, talking before the match and during the match that we were going to stay present, stay in the moment and take each point one at a time and not think about next week or anything like that.”
The only thing on Haggerty’s mind, was being on the court Sunday.
“I’m not feeling too good, but I don’t care,” Haggerty said in a croaking voice. “If I was feeling great or feeling like this, I knew I was going to play for my team. I don’t think I really let down too much. I didn’t want to let anyone to really notice I was sick.”
UW coach Kelly Sheffield noticed the boost Haggerty’s effort gave her team.
“She’s had a pretty rough week being sick and to take 43 swings took a heavy load for us,” he said. “We needed every one of them.”
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Haggerty’s 16 kills led a balanced attack that included 12 kills from junior Dana Rettke, who hit .480 with no errors in 25 attempts, and 10 from redshirt senior Madison Duello, who hit .450.
The Badgers hit .333 for the match against the Big Ten’s top defensive team, which came into the match allowing opponents to hit just .145. The only other match in which a team hit above .300 against the Huskers was when the Badgers hit .376 in their sweep at Lincoln in October.
“I thought that was a great college volleyball match,” Sheffield said. “There was a lot of high level play on both sides of the net. Both teams applied pressure to the other.
“Defensively I thought we were awfully good right out of the gate. Our ball control was solid. Syd was fantastic, really keeping them off balance with her play calls and who she was setting. Our transition game was pretty solid.
“You apply pressure by keeping the ball off the ground, the hitters working and the setter making real good choices and keeping things balanced. I thought it was pretty hard for them to figure out what she was doing.”
As in their first meeting, the Badgers also controlled the serve-pass game, recording four aces while allowing none and keeping the Cornhuskers out of system much of the day. In the two meetings Nebraska served 129 times without an ace against the Badgers. Only one other team, Penn State, held the Huskers to no aces.
“I think serve-pass is everything,” Rettke said. “We put a lot of pressure on with our serves and we got them out of system a good amount. When you get teams out of system you can set up a really good block and a really good defense around that. I think we’re finding our identity in that.”
Nebraska 19 22 21
Wisconsin 25 25 25
NEBRASKA (kills-digs-blocks) — Hames 3-7-1, Knuckles 0-7-0, Miller 0-8-0, Szabo 0-0-0, Kubik 5-15-0, Sun 16-5-0, Sweet 5-2-3, Drewnick 0-0-1, Schwarzenbach 2-0-2, Stivrins 8-0-2, Densberger 0-0-0. Totals 39-44-4.
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Barnes 0-12-0, Hilley 3-8-0, Ashburn 0-7-0, Duello 10-0-4, Rettke 12-3-5, Clark 0-11-0, Hart 6-2-3, Dodge 0-2-0, Loberg 7-1-1, Haggerty 16-2-1. Totals 54-48-8.
Hitting percentage — N .241, W .333. Aces — N 0, W 4 (Barnes, Hilley, Ashburn, Rettke). Assists — N 36 (Hames 32), W 53 (Hilley 48). Att.— 7,052.