CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In the buzzsaw that is Big Ten volleyball, every conference win is important. No. 12 Wisconsin grabbed a big one Friday on the road in Champaign, knocking off Illinois in four sets, 20–25, 25–23, 25–16, 25–20.
After a rough first set that saw Illinois hit .310, Wisconsin held the Illini to .179, .121, and .212 in the final three sets.
“We just made a couple of adjustments and reminded them of what we were doing well,” coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We made an adjustment on a couple of their attackers that were doing a pretty good job. I loved our effort. I thought our offense was getting better and Sydney [Hilley] was locating a little better in the second and as the match was going on.”
“What I loved about it is, I thought we had great balance tonight,” Sheffield said. “I thought we got great balance offensively and part of that has to do with our passing. That’s a big part of it. I thought Syd did a great job of running the offense and keeping us balanced. And our middles, I thought the connection we’ve got with Syd and both of our middles are really good.”
Wisconsin struggled at times, finishing the match with 12 service errors. In the end, though, the Badgers had too much talent for the Illini.
“Early on, I just thought that it was a team that was really amped up to play,” Sheffield said. “We had a few more errors, not just behind the service line but in other areas. And I chalk that up to a team that is really wanting to win tonight. At the end, we had a couple of balls in the net. I’m not sure if they were pressing to close the thing out or what it was, but I thought with our aggression behind the service line and getting them out of system was a big factor tonight. We picked up a few errors along the way but I thought we did a great job of keeping them out of system.”
With No. 1 Penn State coming to town next week, the Badgers could be excused for peeking ahead to their with Northwestern on Sunday. Sheffield is not worried.
“It’s not going to be a problem. We’re trying to get better. We’re trying to get some momentum. We know that the last time we played Northwestern, their best player was not playing in the match and she is one of the top attackers in the Big Ten. One thing I can tell about our team is that they’ve been ready to go. They’ve shown great maturity from practice to practice, match to match. I don’t think that’ll be an issue with us approaching it. Now we’ve got to go there and we have to play well. I totally trust them to go in there and be ready to go.”