Ahead of the weekend series in Michigan, head coach Kelly Sheffield said he was looking for a defensive response from his team.
The No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers (6-1 Big Ten, 14-1 overall) responded to that request, holding the Michigan State Spartans (1-6, 8-8) to a negative hitting percentage in a 3-0 sweep (25-20, 25-10, 25-18) on Friday evening.
In the first set, some good serving from junior defensive specialist Izzy Ashburn set Wisconsin on a good start while the block also got going. The Badgers had nine blocks compared to the Spartans’ two and even shots that weren’t totally blocked had good touches on them to affect the offense.
And MSU struggled all night with errors, leading to their negative hitting percentage. In the first set, the Spartans had 10 errors. Meanwhile, UW hit .263 en route to a 25-20 win that was the closest Michigan State would get to a set win.
The second set saw the Badgers start to run away with it as middle blockers Dana Rettke and Devyn Robinson got things going. UW started with a 10-3 lead in the second frame and kept up that momentum thanks to the defense again forcing a lot of errors. MSU had 12 errors in the second set alone to hit -.167 in that part of the match.
That was not the story for Robinson, who led the way for the Badgers with 10 kills and a .643 hitting percentage. The sophomore from Iowa is finding a home in the middle as she has been filling in for Danielle Hart. Fifth year Dana Rettke had nine kills and six blocks, but had an off night for her standards as she hit “only” .318.
Fifth year setter Sydney Hilley also hit a career milestone in digs in the match as she gathered her 1,000th career dig, joining an elite club of Wisconsin setters with over 5,000 assists and 1,000 digs.
Hilley of course commanded the offense for the Badgers and kept good balance. Although the middle sets were working, five Badgers had five or more kills, with fifth year outside hitter Grace Loberg leading the way for the pins with nine kills.
Loberg finished off the match for UW with the final kill of the night in the third frame to make it 25-18. That was the only set where Michigan State hit in the positive percentages, but only just with .088 percent. Throughout the match, the Spartans were held to -.020 hitting compared to UW’s .301.
Next up for the Badgers is a road test against a feisty Michigan Wolverines (5-3, 12-5) squad at the Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor. That match will air on the Big Ten Network Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.