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Volleyball wins finale in weekend home split

first_imgThe Wisconsin volleyball team bounced back Sunday to sweep Michigan (25-20, 25-18, 25-20) to earn its first home conference win of the season while snapping a four-match losing streak in a weekend split.The Badgers (14-5, 2-4 Big Ten) won each set against the Wolverines (14-6, 2-4) by at least five points in a balanced effort that evaded Wisconsin in its previous four matches.Head coach Pete Waite said if the team performs like it did against the Wolverines, the Badgers would have more victories under their belt thus far in conference play.“It’s what we’ve always been capable of,” Waite said. “It was the consistency we were looking for.”Wisconsin grabbed the first set of the match for the first time since its Big Ten opener against Northwestern Sept. 21. Sophomore outside hitter Crystal Graff led the Badgers with five kills in the opening set, with senior middle blocker Mary Ording adding three more.With the score knotted at 19, Wisconsin won five consecutive points on the powerful serve of junior libero Annemarie Hickey, who pounded two-straight service aces in that run. She totaled four aces in the match.Waite said he was pleased the team’s serving disrupted Michigan’s offensive rhythm.“I think we served tougher,” Waite said. “I think that kept Michigan out of their offense. … Overall, [we had] just a good, balanced team effort, and that’s what we always aim for.”The Badgers established solid starts in the second and third sets by jumping out to 4-1 leads. Senior middle blocker Alexis Mitchell led the team with 12 kills in the final two sets and 14 overall on just 26 attempts.Mitchell’s more aggressive play, combined with precise timing from sophomore setter Courtney Thomas, allowed for more effective attacks.“I was just working on getting up quickly because I knew that I could beat their middles if I was running fast,” Mitchell said. “Courtney was just finding me in the air, so we really connected today.”Thomas operated an effective offensive system against Michigan, posting 38 assists on a .487 passing clip, well above Wisconsin’s team assist percentage of .349. Thomas’ connection with Mitchell was especially on-point in the third set, as the Badgers converted eight of their 17 assists in the set into Mitchell kills.Waite noted Thomas’ improvement from Friday’s loss and said her accurate passing allowed for more options for the attackers up front.“I think she found the middle, and especially Alexis, much more in transition,” Waite said. “You have to be a risk-taker to do that. When she does that, it opens it up for Alexis, it opens it up for the outsides, and it really worked well this afternoon.”Wisconsin out-dug Michigan 46 to 38, with Thomas, Hickey and junior outside hitter Julie Mikaelsen contributing double-figure digs.Wisconsin was effective in disturbing the attacks of the Michigan frontline. The Wolverines racked up 19 errors in the set, but UW held them to just 35 total kills, compared to the Badgers’ 48.While seven team blocks may not seem significant, Waite said Wisconsin’s ability to deflect balls rattled the Michigan hitters.“I think we deflected more balls, so when we deflect and slow it down, … it’s just as important when you can do that, and I think we did a good job of that,” Waite said.Wisconsin was unable to defeat the No. 25 Michigan State Spartans Friday (25-22, 25-21, 18-25, 25-23), who have only lost two matches all season.This was the first match Waite implemented a new look to the lineup – Mikaelsen saw more playing time in the back row, and sophomore Caroline Workman moved to middle of the back row as a defensive specialist. Workman set a career high with 18 digs in the match.“I think I just had a mentality tonight that I wasn’t going to let any balls drop,” Workman said. “Overall, our defense improved a lot tonight from last weekend; I thought we were picking up a lot more balls. Even front row players off blockers were a lot more scrappy on the net.”After dropping the first two sets, Wisconsin was able to take the third set largely due to a staunch defense that accumulated five blocks. With a 23-22 lead in the fourth set, Michigan State took to the final three points to put away Wisconsin.Wisconsin also showed resiliency in a loss against Ohio State last weekend, again grabbing the third set after falling behind 0-2.Waite said he wants to see more consistent play out of the team but was pleased with the team’s fight late in the match.“After a slow start, I was encouraged that we came out of the locker room [and] turned things around,” Waite said. “I thought there was a much different attitude on the court; they were playing with a lot more confidence.”last_img

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