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Wisconsin volleyball: UW drops first set of the season but stays perfect against Illinois

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After a tight three sets including a 25-21 loss in the third set, the Badgers responded to dismantle the Illini in the fourth.

2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Wisconsin dropped their first set of the season, but the record is still unblemished as the No. 1 Badgers (4-0 Big Ten, 4-0 overall) handled the Illinois Fighting Illini’s (2-2, 2-2) tough challenge with a 3-1 (27-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-12) victory.

The first set’s ending was dramatic. After Illinois thought they won the first set 26-24 after a Devyn Robinson shot was called out. Head coach Kelly Sheffield challenged the call, and it was correctly overturned to tie the set at 25-25. Two solid serves from defensive specialist Giorgia Civita led to a kill from senior middle blocker Dana Rettke and an Illinois error to give Wisconsin the 27-25 first set win.

The second set was more routine. UW shot .414 and had four blocks as senior outside hitter Grace Loberg started to come alive. The Illinois native took yesterday’s game off along with senior Molly Haggert, and Loberg came out fresh and swinging.

Loberg finished with a team-leading 14 kills and was a big time performer for UW all over the court, adding seven digs and three blocks as the Badgers cliched the second set 25-20.

But the third set saw Wisconsin struggle, especially with Illinois’ serving. UW called timeout down 9-4 after some struggles in the backline. An ace by Civita cut the Illinois lead to 20-18, but Illinois finished out the third set, meaning there would be no four sweeps in a row for the Badgers.

Wisconsin hit an uncharacteristic .190 during the third set and had three service errors — with 11 service errors overall on the day compared to only five aces — which could be something the Badgers will need to work on.

But after that set back, Wisconsin seemed to wake up in the fourth set, with Dana Rettke taking over. The senior had five kills in the last set alone as UW hit .538 to close out the match with a 25-12 set win.

So the top ranked Badgers are still perfect, gave important playing time to other players in the rotation and responded well after their first lost set of the season. Not too shabby of a weekend!

Next weekend, the Badgers will host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-2 Big Ten, 1-2 overall) on Friday and Saturday night.