They had to eke it out and dropped only their second set of the season, but the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers (10-0 Big Ten, 10-0 overall) edged the feisty Michigan State Spartans (2-7, 2-7) 3-1 (25-10, 25-16, 21-25, 25-22) on Sunday afternoon.
Despite the nervy finish, the Badgers had their best start of the season in the first set. The block was working and Wisconsin held Michigan State to -.133 hitting percentage in the first frame.
Giorgia Civita sparked UW’s run in the first with an 8-0 serving run to get the score to 17-7. The Italian impressed today in her service game and chipped in with eight digs.
Speaking of digs, libero Lauren Barnes was proving why she wears the different colored shirt. Barnes had a career best 28 digs including some highlight reel plays that helped keep Wisconsin in points.
In the second set, the Badgers continued to succeed in the block, finishing with eight blocks after the first two frames. Offensively, freshman Jade Demps and senior Grace Loberg both had five kills in the opening two, and it looked like UW would cruise — and once again, the Spartans hit in the negatives.
But UW hit a speed bump in the third set, and Michigan State took advantage to win 21-25. The Badgers had six attack errors in the third and the Spartans had four aces as UW looked rattled for the first time all season.
Meredith Norris and Cecilee Max-Brown had huge games for the Spartans. Norris finished with four aces and Max-Brown had 12 kills and two aces to keep putting pressure against the Badgers.
In the fourth, Wisconsin got off to a slow start before two straight kills from Grace Loberg off of serves from Civita gave UW a 8-7 lead and MSU called timeout.
Then Jade Demps took over.
Give it to Jade, give it to Jade!! pic.twitter.com/0tnVs0Fu7d— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) February 21, 2021
The freshman was a heavy feature in the rotation for the first time this weekend as Molly Haggerty didn’t dress for the second straight match. At 12-9 in the third set, Demps had 11 kills. She finished with a match-leading, career-high 17 kills including two of the final three points. She did her damage efficiently, hitting .531 on the day.
Despite the late match heartburn, Wisconsin remained undefeated and is off to one of the best starts in program history at 10-0.
Next weekend will be the first major test of the season, as the No. 5 Nebraska Cornhuskers come to town for what should be a great weekend of volleyball.