Badgers go down early, fight back to defeat Northwestern in five - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Badgers go down early, fight back to defeat Northwestern in five sets

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EVANSTON, Ill.— The Wisconsin volleyball team dug itself out of an early 2-0 deficit, claiming its seventh-consecutive victory with a 25-27, 18-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-10 win at Northwestern on Saturday night.

The Badgers improved to 22-3 overall and 14-2 in Big Ten Conference play with the 3-2 decision.

Wisconsin forced the Wildcats (8-19, 1-14) to use both timeouts early in the final set, first taking a 5-3 lead on a hammer from freshman Molly Haggerty, then widening the lead to 8-4 thanks to back-to-back blocks from sophomore Tionna Williams. Northwestern regained ground on Wisconsin, coming within reach at 12-10, but Haggerty and redshirt senior Romana Kriskova led UW to another five-set victory over the Wildcats.

Kriskova paced the offense, tying her season-high of 18 kills and leading all Badgers with a .567 attack percentage (18 kills – 1 error – 30 attempts).

“She saved us, no question,” Sheffield said of Kriskova. “I thought she was great tonight. But that’s one of the strengths of our team. Just about everybody played pretty well last night except but her, and tonight she put us on her shoulders and played really well. That’s one of the things a lot of our kids do. They don’t have bad matches too many times in a row. They usually respond the right way.”

Haggerty put away 16 kills, adding 12 digs for a double-double, while junior Lauryn Gillis smashed 13 kills on the night. Wisconsin hit .217 percent (66-26-184) as a squad.

The Badger defense saved an impressive 92 digs, tying a UW program record. Junior Kelli Bates shared match-high honors with a career-high 29 digs, adding an ace and four assists. Sophomore Amber MacDonald and senior Lauren Carlini contributed 10 digs apiece, while Carlini dished out a 56 assists for her fifth double-double in her last six matches.

Wisconsin out-aced the Wildcats 6-2, committing only three service errors while Northwestern recorded 17 service errors through five sets while scoring on only two aces.

After dropping the first two sets, Wisconsin staged its comeback late in set three, forcing a Wildcats timeout after tying things up at 13. A 3-0 Wisconsin run later in the set forced another Northwestern timeout at 22-19, but the break was not enough to slow UW’s momentum. Kills from Haggerty, Carlini and Gillis finished the set off, 25-21.

The Badgers raced to a 7-3 start in set four and kept a safe distance for most of the frame to win 25-22. The Wildcats closed within one, 21-20, after a 5-1 streak, but the Badger offense cleaned up the set to force the decisive fifth set on a Haggerty ace.

“I’m not sure we came out with the intensity that we needed to play a Big Ten opponent to tell you the truth,” Sheffield said. “[Northwestern] looked the fresher of the two teams and at the end of the day that was on me. I’m not sure that I had us ready to go at the level that we needed to do.

“When our backs up against the wall, this team has been pretty good in those scenarios. It was a grind. Our team kind of got into the grind and got in the fight and that was a tough win. That’s a good team over there, no matter what their record is.”

The first set was a clear indication of the battle to come, as the Wildcats narrowly edged out the Badgers in extra points, 27-25. Battling through 16 tie points and 10 lead changes, Wisconsin served match point with a 25-24 advantage, but Northwestern finished out the set on a 3-0 run to secure the win.

Northwestern secured the 2-0 set lead more decisively, pulling away late in set two to win 25-18. UW tied the match at 14-14 after a Wildcat’s timeout, but Northwestern went on an 11-4 streak to end the frame.

The Badger return to the UW Field House next weekend, hosting two ranked Big Ten foes. Wisconsin faces No. 17 Michigan on Friday at 7:30 p.m. before a 7 p.m. contest against No. 15 Michigan State on Saturday. Both matches are already sold out.

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