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Wisconsin volleyball: UW holds off feisty Indiana team to sweep (again)

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I’m gonna have to figure out how to make the recaps not always sound the same.

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

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers (8-0 Big Ten, 8-0 overall) had some close stretches but looked the better team as they swept a Big Ten team (in this case, the Indiana Hoosiers) and also had a stretch where they played lights out volleyball.

In the second match of the series, the young Hoosiers (2-6, 2-6) tested the Badgers a little bit more than for just one set, but a dominant second set paced Wisconsin to the 3-0 (25-23, 25-11, 26-24) sweep.

In the first frame, Wisconsin once again had Devyn Robinson come out flying. Robinson had two early kills to get things going, but Indiana took the lead for short stretches in the first. Wisconsin struggled to get the block set up early on and had a lot of service errors.

IU had a 21-22 lead when two kills — first from outside hitter Grace Loberg and then Robinson — gave UW an insurmountable lead before Loberg finished the set off with the last kill.

Izzy Ashburn stole the show in the second set. With the score 6-5 for Wisconsin, Ashburn had four aces in a row to give UW the 10-5 advantage. Two kills from Dana Rettke — who improved after a slow start in the first — meant Ashburn had a 6-0 service run that energized Wisconsin and led to a dominant 25-11 showing.

“Izzy Ashburn was extremely valuable to our team today. She got things going for us a ton in that second set. The confidence she had back there puts so much confidence in each of us,” Loberg said after the match.

“Izzy coming in in the second (set) and really flustering them, I thought was a huge key in the match,” head coach Kelly Sheffield added.

This was a match where Wisconsin’s attacking depth again sparkled. Molly Haggerty and Rettke had some struggles on the offense, but Loberg and Robinson were nearly automatic during the match.

Loberg finished with 14 kills while hitting .700 percent. The senior filled out her stat sheet with five digs, two blocks and an ace as she was Wisconsin’s biggest weapon on the night. Robinson had another big day against Indiana as the freshman hit double digit kills for her second straight game, this time finishing with 11 and chipping in with three blocks.

The Hoosiers didn’t go away lightly for the Badgers in set one or three. Wisconsin looked like they won match point in the third but a challenge put the score back at 24-24. But a Loberg kill and a Dana Rettke block — one of four on the night for the senior All-American — gave the Badgers the 26-24 set win and 3-0 sweep, their seventh of the season.

The offense was too much for the young and improving Indiana Hoosiers side, and Wisconsin still looks like a national title contender.