The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (11-2 Big Ten, 19-2 overall) shrugged off a deflating loss to Purdue last week to get back to their winning ways, sweeping the Northwestern Wildcats (5-8 Big Ten, 10-14 overall), 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-15).
Sophomore Devyn Robinson led the way for the Badgers, coming up for UW in huge moments with a team-leading 10 kills and four blocks as they took care of business.
In the opening set, Northwestern kept the frame tight for a while before some good serving from junior Izzy Ashburn helped UW get an 8-5 lead. UW extended that lead to 15-10 with the help of a kill from freshman outside hitter Julia Orzoł, who started much better than she did against the Boilermakers last week.
Despite strong play from Northwestern’s outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara which cut the lead to 21-16 after UW had an eight-point advantage — Thomas-Ailara finished the first set with six kills — the Badgers broke their momentum to take the first set 25-17. Wisconsin hit .367 in the first set, much improved off that poor start against Purdue.
Thomas-Ailara continued to give the Wildcats some strong play to keep NU close for the start of the second set. But a different wrinkle from Wisconsin with some back row swings from sophomore Jade Demps gave UW more options, and helped the Badgers build a 10-8 lead in the second frame.
The outside hitter from North Carolina has shown flashes this year, but today she was asked to do much more defensively and in the service game and impressed in both. Demps hit a tidy .313 while getting looks all over the court, and had an impressive changeup serve to go with a season-high six digs.
“I thought Jade (Demps) had a really good match. Serving has been something she has struggled with a little bit but has found a serve that works for her and we went on some good runs. We were running her out of the back court a bit and I think she can be a real weapon for us,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said.
Still, Northwestern showed some fight in the second — even building a 16-19 lead — but some successful challenges from UW brought the Badgers to tie at 19-19. The Wildcats had two kills straight from a timeout and were taking some advantage.
Then Devyn Robinson took over.
The Ankeny, Iowa native had two kills and two blocks during a 6-0 run for the Badgers that clinched the set and vacuumed up any momentum the Wildcats had to shut down the second set 25-21 for UW.
“I think [Robinson] got a little bit irritated with herself and the number of errors she was making early on…That’s one of the things I love about her. She comes back at you fierce,” Sheffield noted after the match.
After that, Wisconsin rushed out to a 12-5 lead in the third frame with the Wildcats feeling flustered enough the head coach called their final timeout that early in the set. The Badger win seemed signed, sealed, and then delivered with an attacking error from Thomas-Ailara. Though she finished with a match-high 12 kills, she cooled down significantly after the second set to post just two in the last set.
That's a wrap in the land down under. pic.twitter.com/MIs8aI6fBe— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) November 6, 2021
The Badgers hit .309 as a team in the match while holding Northwestern to just .156 — including just .023 in the final frame. That’s in large part to eight total blocks for UW and fifth year libero Lauren Barnes posting double digit digs for the tenth straight game.
Wisconsin will wrap up the weekend of volleyball with a match against Big Ten cellar dweller Iowa Hawkeyes (2-11 Big Ten, 4-19 overall) — who, after firing their coach earlier this week, are coming off a rare win 3-1 against Indiana. That match will be on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. CT in Iowa City on Big Ten Plus.