No. 4 Badgers hold off late rally by Iowa - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

No. 4 Badgers hold off late rally by Iowa

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IOWA CITY, Iowa— It was a win that the No. 4 Wisconsin volleyball team needed if it wanted to keep its hopes of a Big Ten Conference championship alive. The Badgers held off a late rally by Iowa Saturday night to sweep the Hawkeyes 25-15, 25-20, 25-23.

The win improves the Badgers’ Big Ten record to 8-2 and keep them in the hunt for the championship. Wisconsin is a only a game behind league-leading Penn State, following the Nittany Lions losing their first conference match of the season at No. 16 Michigan, 3-2, tonight.

After winning the first two sets, the Badgers (16-3) had to battle through 16 ties and six lead changes in the third set to secure the sweep.

Neither team led by more than three points in the third set as Iowa (15-7, 5-5 Big Ten) recorded its only block of the night in the final set as well as recording two of the team's four aces.

The Hawkeyes had their largest lead of the session early on, taking a 6-3 lead before a trio of kills from redshirt senior Romana Kriskova tied the score at six. Neither team was able to string together more than three points in a row in the clash as the two teams battled through a 22-22 tie. Two straight Iowa hitting errors gave the Badgers match point at 24-22 but the Hawkeyes scored a kill to hold off the first possible winner. But on the next serve, a kill from sophomore Tionna Williams clinched the win.

Wisconsin recorded a .339 attack percentage (44 kills - 6 errors - 112 attempts), hitting over .300 for the eighth time this season. Freshman Molly Haggerty led the Badger offense with 13 kills and only two errors for a .379 hitting percentage. Junior Lauryn Gillis and redshirt senior Romana Kriskova each added nine kills and two blocks, while Williams chipped in five kills.

The Hawkeyes hit .217 (42-17-115) behind 13 kills from Jess Janota and 10 kills from Lauren Brobst. Iowa out dug the Badgers 57-48.

Senior Haleigh Nelson served up a career-high four aces while adding five digs and a match-high five blocks, while junior Kelli Bates added three aces and nine digs. Carlini put up a match-high 39 assists, adding six digs, two kills, and one ace.

Sophomore Amber MacDonald led the squad with 10 digs, while Haggerty and fellow freshman M.E. Dodge each contributed five saves.

In the first set, three consecutive service aces from Nelson helped Wisconsin race to an 8-3 lead. The Badgers won four-straight points, forcing Iowa's first timeout, then went on a 7-1 tear that caused Hawkeye's head coach Bond Shymansky to take his team off the court during Iowa's second timeout with UW up 23-10. The Hawkeyes responded with a 4-0 run, but UW held on to the lead to take set one, 25-15.

The Badgers committed no attack errors in the set while hitting .314 percent (11-0-35). UW out blocked the Hawkeyes 3-0 and dished out six aces in the first frame.

UW’s offense dominated the second set, putting away eight kills and adding a service ace to take a 9-7 lead. Iowa stayed within three points of UW for most of the set until a late 6-2 run helped the Badgers pull away and take a 2-0 set lead in the match.

The Badgers return to Madison on Friday, welcoming No. 9 Penn State to the UW Field House for an 8 p.m. match live on the Big Ten Network. UW hosts Rutgers on Sunday at 1 p.m. Both matches are already sold out.

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