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Wisconsin volleyball: UW scraps to a sweep against Michigan

When the game is a bit ugly, it’s nice to have players like Julia Orzoł and Dana Rettke to finish off a match.

Tom Lynn

The No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers (7-1 Big Ten, 15-1 overall) capped off a road weekend in the Mitten State with a scrappy 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 26-24) sweep of the Michigan Wolverines (4-4, 11-6).

Wisconsin had pushed out to an early 7-4 lead against the Wolverines in the first set, but the score remained pretty tight throughout the. Michigan had the score tied at 22-22 before freshman Julia Orzoł had back-to-back kills to give UW a 24-22 lead and a set point. Michigan then had a service error to close out the first set for the Badgers.

Orzoł once again led the way for Wisconsin on offense, and played especially well in the second set. The Polish freshman had a team-leading 14 kills along with six digs, and a lot of her best work coming in the second set where UW looked dominant over the Wolverines to win 25-15.

Wisconsin’s defense in the second set was also a key factor, as Michigan hit in the negative percentages. UW’s defense on the backside looked especially impressive with libero Lauren Barnes and junior defensive specialist Joslyn Boyer picking up some really good digs in the back row. The Badgers had 43 digs to Michigan’s 29, highlighting the team’s collective effort.

Boyer must be so happy to not play for Iowa any more.
Tom Lynn

The second set also saw some really good work from the two middle blockers — Dana Rettke and Devyn Robinson. Fifth year Sydney Hilley set them frequently whether straight through the middle or on the slide, and the pair were as dominant and efficient as usual. Rettke had 12 kills and five blocks while hitting .500 percent while Robinson had eight kills while still adjusting to the role.

The third set saw the Badgers get off to a quick start before a few shakier moments late on. Wisconsin reached a 20-17 and looked ready to finish off the match but a 7-2 run from the Wolverines gave Michigan a couple set points at 22-24. That’s when Rettke and Orzoł stepped up with kills to tie the match back at 24-24.

Orzoł then finished off the match with a kill after a Michigan error to sew up the 26-24 lead and hold off the Wolverines’ late charge.

One other interesting note from the match was freshman Anna Smrek saw some playing time alongside Dana Rettke in the third set. Smrek and Rettke — who stand 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-8 respectively — basically took up the whole right side of the block for UW and Michigan avoided that side of the court like the plague. Smrek did not have a ton of stats, but head coach Kelly Sheffield noted she really impacted the match at that point.

The Michigan match wasn’t always the prettiest and Sheffield said the team took their “foot off the gas” in the third set — which has been a theme for UW this season, but the team gutted out two road Big Ten wins.

The Badgers will be happy to come home this weekend as they host two top-15 teams in Ohio State and Penn State.