CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Sydney Hilley has no shortage of weapons as she runs the attack for the University of Wisconsin volleyball team.
But the Badgers unveiled another of those weapons Saturday night that Hilley will never be able to set. That would be Hilley.
The No. 5 Badgers (2-0) broke out their 6-2 offense for a brief stretch Saturday as they cruised to an impressive 25-20, 25-13, 25-17 sweep of host North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Carmichael Arena.
With the 6-2 offense, freshman Izzy Ashburn takes over the setting duties while Hilley assumes a hitting role.
The Badgers only employed that lineup for a few points in the second set and none of Hilley’s six kills on the night came during that run. But it’s a look that opponents likely will get to see from time to time this season.
“Those are things that we do in practice and you like giving Izzy some time in real matches, being able to do that,” coach Kelly Sheffield said. “Syd’s able to take swings at the ball, which is one of the nice things. There’s some versatility there.”
While Hilley was unable to convert on a couple chances there, she’s looking forward to getting more opportunities along the way.
“Izzy set me a couple times but I roll shotted them, unfortunately,” said Hilley. “It was a little flashback to high school when Izzy was my setter. It’s kind of fun. I feel like my hitting is a little rusty right now but I’m getting back into the groove.”
While Hilley is working on her swing, her other hitters were in fine form against the Tar Heels. The Badgers hit a sizzling .450 for the match with 54 kills and just nine errors in 100 swings.
Junior middle Dana Rettke again led the way with 18 kills, hitting .727, and she had plenty of company. Junior Grace Loberg rebounded from a quiet opener on Friday with 12 kills and hitting .458 while redshirt sophomore Danielle Hart added seven kills without an error to hit .500.
One of the keys to that was the play of the passers, who kept the Badgers in system most of the match and didn’t surrender an ace.
“Credit to my passers and credit to all my hitters,” Hilley said. “It’s really fun when I’m put in a position where I can set anyone and I know anyone can put the ball down. It makes my life a lot easier and it’s tough for people to defend when we have weapons anywhere you look.”
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After an inconsistent sophomore season, Loberg is determined to become a reliable force from the outside hitter spot this year.
“This season, especially, I’m trying to come out with a different confidence than last year,” said Loberg, who got six of her kills in the first set to help set the tone for the match. “I was kind of slow (Friday), so it felt good to come out with more power today.
“A big thing for me is not riding the good plays for too long and not riding the bad plays for too long either. I’m trying to focus on that next play mentality, no matter what happens.
“I feel like our team played really well as a whole. Dana is always Dana. We have a solid group right now. Everyone has been working their butts off and working to get better and I think it’s going to show. It showed this weekend and it’s going to continue to show as we get to watch film and get better at the little things.”
As impressive as the Badgers looked over the weekend — and their sweep of Florida State on Friday looked even better after the Seminoles swept No. 3 Minnesota in the other match Saturday — Sheffield views it as just a stepping stone to even bigger things.
“What we’re excited about is to get back in the gym and get better,” he said. “We can leave here feeling that everybody had some good moments and everybody is going to be able to watch film and find ways that they can get a little bit better at their game.
“That’s what playing good competition right out of the gate will do. You’ll see some things you’ve got to get better at. You’re wanting to win but you’re wanting to get better.”
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Hilley 6-3-1, Duello 4-0-0, Rettke 18-1-2, Hart 7-0-1, Loberg 12-2-2, Haggerty 7-2-2, Barnes 0-5-0, Ashburn 0-7-0, Clark 0-12-0, Dodge 0-2-0. Totals 54-33-3.
NORTH CAROLINA (kills-digs-blocks) — Cox 3-0-2, Archer 1-2-2, Esterley 0-0-0, Skyy 6-4-1, Austin 1-3-1, Harrison 12-3-1, Peck 2-5-1, Wine 7-1-0, Moseman 0-0-0, Fradenburg 0-4-0, Shannon 0-5-0, Clark 1-0-3, Wurl 0-6-0. Totals 33-30-6.
Hitting percentage — W .450, NC .220. Aces — W 5 (Ashburn 4), NC 0. Assists — W 48 (Hilley 41), NC 29 (Archer 26). Att. — 1,342.