MADISON, Wis. — For this week’s edition of Saturday Night Volleyball on the Big Ten Network, Illinois traveled to the UW Fieldhouse to take on the Wisconsin Badgers, the second-best team in the nation.
Illinois would be swept 3-0 (25-13, 25-13, 25-12) in dominant fashion by the Badgers, who now move to 22-1 (13-1 Big Ten), while Illinois falls to 13-11 (8-6 Big Ten). The loss also knocks Illinois from fifth to seventh in the Big Ten standings.
“I thought we played them in a good first set last time and kind of fell apart after the first set,” said head coach Chris Tamas looking ahead at the matchup. The first set in that match, part of a 3-0 loss, finished 25-22.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The first frame was characterized by good defense by the Badgers preventing the Fighting Illini from getting into any sort of offensive rhythm. The hosts got out to a quick start, leading 17-7 early on. Wisconsin’s front line put up six blocks and held the visitors to a -0.036 hitting percentage in a set that was never quite close ending 25-13.
Set two was more of the same, but Wisconsin was hitting with more deadliness than in the first hitting at a rate of .464 with 15 kills. The second set started the closest of all three, with an Anna Smrek kill to give Wisconsin the 10-9 lead being the start of a 10-point run. Kelly Sheffield’s team never looked back after that, closing the set at 25-13.
Set three was more of the same as the first two. Wisconsin dominated the net with eight blocks, resulting in yet another set in which Illinois hit negative. The Fighting Illini could only manage 12 points in the final frame.
WHAT STOOD OUT
Illinois never really did look comfortable. Wisconsin is a tall, long team that causes problems on both sides of the net. That’s why they’re one of the best (or arguably the best) teams in the country.
On the defensive front, they forced Illinois to a .000 (24 kills - 24 errors - 84 attempts) hitting percentage. The mark was their lowest of the season. That was done thanks to their 17 blocks, which set a school record for blocks in a 3-set match.
On the attack, Wisconsin hit .398 (40 - 7 - 83). It’s their 17th game of the season hitting above .300. During their six-game winning streak, Illinois averaged 2.63 blocks per set. Against Wisconsin, they managed just two for the entire match, their lowest mark of the season.
Illinois will continue on to the second stop of their road trip against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday at 6 p.m. C.T. The game will be on Big Ten Plus and on radio at WDWS. The Hawkeyes are last in the Big Ten, carrying a record of 8-18 overall and 0-14 in Big Ten play.