After a sputtering start, the University of Wisconsin volleyball team kicked it into high gear and pulled away for a four-set victory Saturday night over Illinois at the UW Field House.
Seniors Dana Rettke (14 kills) and Grace Loberg (13 kills) led the way as the No. 4 Badgers beat the Illini for the second time in seven days 25-27, 25-20, 25-9, 25-15.
Loberg’s fourth kill of the night in the second set was No. 1,000 of her career, making her the 25th player to reach that number in program history.
The Badgers (13-1, 5-1 Big Ten Conference) got contributions from all over the court. Sophomores Devyn Robinson and Jade Demps had 10 and nine kills, respectively. And freshman Julia Orzol, despite a rare off night on the attack with just six kills and eight errors, provided a big spark in the third set with her serve.
Defensively, libero Lauren Barnes led the way with 15 digs. After not getting a block in the first set, the Badgers finished the night with 10, led by Rettke with eight.
UW hit .248 for the match, while the Illini (11-6, 3-3) were held to a .056 hitting percentage.
The Badgers appeared to have taken command of the first set with a 6-0 run that turned an 8-7 deficit into a 13-8 lead. UW was aided by four Illinois errors in that run, including three consecutive hitting errors by Raina Terry.
UW still was up 22-18 before Illinois put together a 4-0 run on three hitting errors and an ace to tie the set. Loberg then got the Badgers to set point with two kills but the Illini responded with a kill from Jessica Nunge.
UW got to set point again on a kill by Orzol, but the Illini answered with a decisive 3-0 run on two hitting errors by Orzol and an ace by setter Diana Brown.
It was an error-filled set for each team as the Badgers had nine hitting errors and three service errors, while the Illini had six hitting errors. UW hit .113 and Illinois .132. The Illini had seven blocks in the set while the Badgers had none.
The Badgers got off to a strong start in the second set, leading 12-5, before the Illini rallied again with a 7-1 run to get within one at 13-12.
But this time the Badgers managed to hold them off, even as the Illini kept things close. UW looked to have opened up a 20-16 lead only to have a point overturned on review on a touch call, narrowing their lead to 19-17.
The Illini cut it to 21-20 but after a UW timeout, the Badgers finished things off with a 4-0 run on a kill by Loberg, one by Rettke on an overpass, a block by Rettke and Orzol and an Illini hitting error.
UW hit .263 in the set, reducing its hitting errors to just two, while the Illini hit .135 with eight attack errors.
The Badgers were clinging to an 8-7 lead in the third set when they took charge and went on a closing 17-2 run. Robinson got things started with a kill, bringing Orzol to serve. After a couple early service errors on her topspin jump, she went to her float serve for a while. But she brought the topspin back and turned the match around. She created two points on overpasses, leading to easy kills by Robinson and Demps, and then got an ace.
The Badgers built up a 15-6 lead in the fourth set and cruised the rest of the way to close out the match.
Illinois 27 20 9 15
Wisconsin 25 25 25 25
ILLINOIS (kills-digs-blocks) — Collins 2-2-6, Kuper 0-12-0, Bruder 0-3-0, Brown 0-11-4, Swanson 3-2-5, Barnes 0-3-0, Terry 13-11-3, Nunge 10-1-0, Cooney 4-10-4, Sakoda 0-0-0. Totals 32-55-12.
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Barnes 0-15-0, Hilley 1-5-4, MacDonald 0-4-0, Boyer 0-8-0, Robinson 10-0-2, Ashburn 0-10-0, Demps 9-0-2, Rettke 15-1-8, Loberg 13-3-1, Orzol 6-12-3. Totals 54-58-10.
Hitting percentage — I .056, W .248. Aces — I 4 (Terry 2), W 9 (Ashburn 4). Assists — I 28 (Brown 22), W 44 (Hilley 40). Att. — 7,540.