Has Wisconsin volleyball found its kryptonite in the Penn State Nittany Lions?
The Badgers have to be wondering that following a Big Ten opening sweep by Penn State at the UW Field House. No. 3-ranked Penn State dropped the No. 5-ranked Badgers in straight sets (17-25, 21-25 and 22-25) in a rematch of last years national championship game.
Itâ€™s a familiar feeling in regular season play, as Wisconsin lost both matches last season and were swept in the process.
On Wednesday night the Badgers kept it close, but just couldnâ€™t overcome some unforced errors. Despite holding Penn State to a season low .288 attacking percentage, UW dropped to 10-2 on the season and lost its Big Ten opener.
â€śI thought our backcourt defense battled like crazy and we got beat by a team that just played better than us tonight. Every time we got close, they answered,â€ť Sheffield said following the match.Â
Wisconsin simply couldnâ€™t overcome the Penn State attack, losing the first set 25-17 thanks in large part to hitting just .122 compared to PSUâ€™s .311. It also didnâ€™t help that the Nittany Lions had a 19-9 advantage in kills for the set.
Donâ€™t think it wasnâ€™t for a lack of effort, as the Badgers put it all out on the line in hopes of extending the match over the next two sets.
UW upped the ante on offense, hitting an improved .150 but still couldnâ€™t overcome Penn Stateâ€™s attack, which hit .333 for the second set.
The third set had five tied scores and three lead changes but Wisconsin eventually dropped the set, 25-22.Â
Statistically speaking it was the Badgersâ€™ best set of the night, as they hit .171 for the set and had a game-high 14 kills. However, it couldnâ€™t overcome seven errors and allowing a service ace to Penn State.
By far the star of the match for UW was the usual suspect, Lauren Carlini. She had a double-double in the match, with 33 assists and 13 digs. It gave her a team-high seventh double-double and was also her seventh game with 10-plus digs on the season.
Wisconsin hit just .148 for the game, with only Dominque Thompson hitting over .300 for the match. Thompson hit .333 with six kills and just one error on 15 total attacks, while also adding one dig to the effort.
Ellen Champan led UW with 13 kills for the match, and she was the only Badger to record double digit kills for the match.
Freshman Kelli Bates didnâ€™t wether under the pressure, although it also wasnâ€™t her best effort. She finished second on the team in kills with nine, but also led the team in errors with seven and had eight digs.
Wisconsin will host Ohio State on Sunday at 1pm, with the Buckeyes coming in to the contest sporting a 9-4 record overall and having just lost a 5-set match to Minnesota to open Big Ten play.