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Wisconsin volleyball splits Big Ten openers

Dana Rettke won Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

Sydney Hilley and Dana Rettke.
Sydney Hilley and Dana Rettke.
UW Athletic Communications

No. 7 Wisconsin volleyball opened Big Ten play at the Field House this weekend, dropping a five-set match against No. 16 Michigan State on Friday before rallying to sweep No. 23 Michigan in a nationally-televised game on Sunday afternoon.

Friday saw Wisconsin lose to Michigan State in a five-set hearbreaker. The Badgers went up early, winning the first set 25–14 before dropping the next two. Wisconsin rallied to win the four set before ultimately losing the finale 15–13. It was the Badgers’ first loss of the season.

With the exception of a blistering .414 first set, Wisconsin struggled all match, hitting only .202 and never breaking .200 after the first set. The defense held the Spartans to .182, but it was not enough.

Freshman middle blocker Dana Rettke led the way with 19 kills and five blocks. Senior Kelli Bates had 14 kills and junior Tionna Williams added five blocks.

ESPN came to town on Sunday and the Badgers rose to the occasion, knocking off Michigan in three sets in a nationally-televised matched. It was Wisconsin’s eighth sweep of the season.

Wisconsin returned to form on offense, hitting .359, including a blistering .500 in the first set. Michigan was held to a season-low .079, including a -.115 first set.

Bates (12 kills) and fellow senior Lauryn Gillis (11 kills) led the way on offense, with Rettke (nine blocks) and sophomore Madison Duello (eight blocks) coming up big on the defensive end.

Rettke continued Wisconsin’s season-long showing in the Big Ten weekly awards on Monday, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Week after big matches against the Spartans and Wolverines that saw her set career highs in kills and service aces. It’s the third time this season that Rettke won the award.

With Minnesota, Penn State, and Wisconsin all losing over the weekend, there was a great deal of Big Ten movement in the AVCA coaches poll.

Minnesota dropped out of the top spot and now sits tied with Penn State for third overall. Wisconsin dropped two spots to No. 7, while Nebraska, whicj knocked off the Nittany Lions in University Park, rose from No. 14 to No. 8. Michigan State went from not rated all the way to No. 16 on the back of upsets of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Wisconsin heads west this weekend for road match-ups Friday at Iowa and Saturday at No. 8 Nebraska. All matches can be heard on 100.9 FM and the iHeart radio app.