Badgers volleyball opens up spring victorious - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Badgers volleyball opens up spring victorious

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AURORA, Ill. (Per UW Athletics) – The Wisconsin volleyball team opened its spring season with a 25-21, 27-25, 26-24 win over Illinois at the Great Lakes Center on Saturday afternoon. The match marked the Badger debuts of freshmen Sydney Hilley, Dana Rettke and Mariah Whalen.

“I thought they all did well,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “They all have things they have to get better at but none of them played small. They were having fun, they were connecting with their teammates. I thought they all had some great moments. They all have some great futures ahead of them.”

Hilley started at setter for Wisconsin, putting up more than 40 assists. The 5-11 setter also added seven digs, two blocks and one service ace.  Rettke, who started at middle blocker, put away 13 kills for second on the team while sharing team-high honors with two blocks. Whalen also earned a starting role at outside hitter, chipping in six kills and one block.

“I thought Syd did a pretty good job,” added Sheffield. “Watching video with her after today’s match is going to be really good. You play a good opponent, you’re going to learn some things. We are certainly going to be able to learn some things.”

Wisconsin hit .230 (46 kills – 18 errors – 122 attempts) compared to .224 (44-18-116) for the Illini. Illinois was led by Beth Prince with 12 kills while Jacqueline Quade added 11 putaways.

UW’s Lauryn Gillis led all players with 19 kills.

“There were a lot of really good rallies for both sides,” Sheffield said. “The effort was good for both sides. I thought our players, when they made errors, they responded the right way. They didn’t try to play it safe. They kept battling.”

Both teams had 47 digs with Kelli Bates leading the Badgers with 13 saves. M.E. Dodge added 12 digs and took home match-high honors with two service aces.

Wisconsin finished with a 4-0 advantage in service aces.

“Our passing was good (and) our serving got stronger,” said Sheffield.

Both teams also finished with seven blocks.

“What we told them going in was win or lose, play well (or) play poorly, we’re going to go back on Monday and watch video and get better,” explained Sheffield. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Badgers won all three sets with late rallies. In set one, UW trailed 20-19 before four kills by Gillis and a block by Rettke and Hilley put Wisconsin up 24-20. The Illini held off one set point before a Rettke putaway gave the Badgers a 1-0 lead in the match. 

In the second set, Wisconsin led 22-18 before Illinois went on a 5-1 run to knot the score at 23. The Badgers served for set point at 24-23 and at 25-24 before two straight Gillis kills gave UW a 2-0 lead.

Wisconsin led by as many as eight points (17-9) in the third set before the Illini rallied to tie the set at 24. Rettke again proved to be the difference as two straight kills from the 6-8 middle blocker clinched the set and the match.

“I’m really appreciative of all the fans that showed up,” Sheffield added. “The club had a great turnout and I thought they did a great job putting this together. So many Badger fans that made the drive down, they just really made it cool. Another great example of how incredible our fans are; the weather is great outside and people were choosing to drive a few hours to watch spring volleyball.

The Badgers continue their spring season on April 9 with a match against Creighton in Mount Vernon, Iowa. First serve is at 2 p.m. from the Small Multi-Sports Center on the campus of Cornell College.

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