There are a lot of words that can go in front of the Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team.
“No. 1.” “Undefeated.” “Best Dancers.”
Now add “back-to-back Big Ten champions.”
That’s the qualifier the Badgers get after dispatching the Michigan Wolverines in straight sets 3-0 (25-23, 25-12, 25-11) to bring home the Big Ten trophy for the second consecutive year.
“It’s very satisfying to get that trophy in our hands. We have some of the most dedicated athletes on our team. All the pauses and inconsistencies this season really makes it worth it,” Dana Rettke said. “I’m just really happy that we can bring this back to Wisconsin and have it with our team two years in a row.”
Michigan made Wisconsin work for it early on. After racing out to an early 10-3 lead, Michigan clawed back to tie it at 17 all before getting ahead 17-19, forcing UW to call a timeout.
The Badgers got it back to 22-22 thanks to a big surge from senior middle blocker Dana Rettke. With the rest of the team struggling to hit and having an uncharacteristic amount of early errors, Rettke had seven kills and hit .500 in the first set.
Still, staring at your phone loving the fact that your team is now the 2020-21 Big Ten Champs?— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) April 2, 2021
Yeah, we are, too.
So here's some more content. Top Plays from tonight presented by @culvers! pic.twitter.com/dLncfr3Vdk
With the offense struggling early, the defense shined for Wisconsin. The Badgers had 26 total digs in the first frame and some critical early blocks to scrape out the first set 25-23. The defensive play was fearless, and something head coach Kelly Sheffield appreciated.
“I loved our fighting spirit to get off the floor. We were scrambling back there, bodies all over the floor. The defensive efforts were fantastic,” Sheffield said.
Everyone got involved on the digs front. Senior setter Sydney Hilley had a double double thanks to her casual 35 assists and 10 digs. Grace Loberg showed her ability as a full rotation player as well, grabbing eight digs along with five kills from the pin.
After the blip in the first set — UW hit only .167 in the first — the offense found its footing and the defense never left as the Badgers blew the Wolverines out of the water.
Wisconsin hit .455 in the second and an ungodly .577 in the third as the team fired on all cylinders despite the stopping and starting of this season. Unsurprisingly, Rettke led the way for UW with 17 kills and .586 hitting percentage.
Sydney Hilley felt that Rettke’s performance made it clear that she desperately wanted to clinch that Big Ten title tonight.
“Every time I was pumping her the ball and she was putting it away. You could just see it in her eyes she wanted that Big Ten Championship and she wasn’t going to let that first set get away,” Hilley said.
Junior Danielle Hart was also dominant in the middle, putting away six kills in nine attacks and stuffing the Wolverines three times on the block.
You have entered the splash zone.— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) April 2, 2021
>> inside the locker room pic.twitter.com/E5ANhX7yiG
All that means is the Badgers are the Big Ten champions — going back-to-back for the first time since the 2000 and 2001 season. Wisconsin will look to stay perfect on the season and build on towards the NCAA Tournament against the Wolverines Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. CT on ESPNU.