When you practice every day against the No. 1 team in the nation, you can’t help but be ready when the chance comes to play against anybody else.
So it was for Jade Demps, who stepped in for the second match in place of injured outside hitter Molly Haggerty to lead the top-ranked University of Wisconsin volleyball team to a 25-10, 25-16, 21-26, 25-22 victory Sunday over Michigan State at Jenison Field House in East Lansing.
Demps, a 6-foot-2 freshman from Raleigh, North Carolina, had 17 kills with no errors, more than doubling her previous season-high of eight kills set on Saturday.
“I feel like our practices prepare me already more than enough to go out and play well and get as many kills as I can for our team,” Demps said. “Our depth is just so great that I know at a moment’s notice I could go in and I have to be able to be there and hold up my end.
“Every day I just want to get better and it’s really awesome to have a team that allows me to do that. I know they’ve got my back and I’m just going out swinging. Everyone is there for me, telling me what’s open so I go ‘OK, OK, I’ve got it, I’m going to go do that.’”
Demps hit a sizzling .531 for the match and an even .500 for the weekend, with a total of 25 kills and just one error in 48 swings.
“Jade was great,” coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We were getting her the ball a lot. We were out of system an awful lot and she was taking some really good out of system swings, working the ball all over the court.”
After dominating the first two sets Sunday, the Badgers (10-0 Big Ten) struggled in serve receive over the last two as the Spartans (2-7) recorded eight of their nine aces for the match. The third-set loss was just the second set UW has dropped this season, snapping a 19-set streak.
“They outpassed us big time today,” Sheffield said. “They were able to be in their offense a lot more than they were yesterday and that was a big difference. We struggled a little bit handling the ball.”
The Spartans targeted senior Grace Loberg in serve receive and got five of their aces against her. After back-to-back aces tied the fourth set 14-14, Loberg was replaced by sophomore Anna MacDonald for a point.
But Loberg returned and played a key role down the stretch with three kills and two blocks, including one for match point. She finished with nine kills, six of them in the fourth set.
“Loberg was really struggling for most of the match, not just passing but I think she was hitting zero for a good portion of the match,” Sheffield said. “The latter part of game 4 she came up with some really bigtime kills for us, just mentally staying with it.”
Despite their ball control struggles, the Badgers hit .302 for the match. They’ve hit over .300 in nine of their 10 matches. The Spartans hit just .079 for the match and .076 for the weekend.
Senior libero Lauren Barnes had a career-high 28 digs.
“Defensively, we were just so much better than (Saturday),” Sheffield said. “We came out and got a lot of stuff blocks and then a lot of positive touches on our blocks.Our backcourt was flying all over the place, and Barnesy was certainly leading the way. That was her best match of the season.”
Wisconsin 25 25 21 25
Michigan State 10 16 25 22
WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Demps 17-2-0, Loberg 9-5-5, Robinson 7-1-3, Hart 7-0-5, Rettke 6-1-6, Kraft 2-8-0, Barnes 1-28-0, Hilley 0-6-0, MacDonald 0-0-0, Civita 0-8-0, Ashburn 0-2-0. Totals 49-61-14.
MICHIGAN STATE (kills-digs-blocks) — Max-Brown 12-2-2, Swartz 6-2-0, Monks 5-0-2, Chronowski 5-0-0, Gros 3-4-0, Norris 3-4-0, Kabengele 2-0-0, Cullen 1-6-0, Poljan 1-0-0, Edmonds 0-11-0, Cox 0-20-0, Gibbs 0-4-0, Shklyar 0-0-0. Totals 39-50-6.
Hitting percentage — W .302, MS .079. Aces — W 4 (Barnes 2), MS 9 (Norris 4). Assists — W 47 (Hilley 39), MS 39 (Cullen 33).