In back-to-back matches, the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers (4-0 overall) swept the Dayton Flyers (2-3) sweeping both contests 3-0, but not always in dominant fashion.
The first match on Thursday (25-13, 25-19, 25-23) saw the Badgers come out firing in the first set. The team had a 6-0 run that ballooned into a 16-6 advantage before closing it out 25-13. Wisconsin hit .650 in that set while Dayton had as many kills as errors to hit .000 percent.
But the Flyers progressed into the match. Wisconsin somewhat took their foot off the gas and Dayton even took a 10-12 lead. But a good service run by the Badgers from defensive specialist Joslyn Boyer gave UW a 15-13 advantage they didn’t look back from.
Wisconsin was tested in the third, and had to rely on the big names and some help from the raucous crowd of students to close out the set. Fifth year senior Dana Rettke, fifth year senior Grace Loberg and sophomore Devyn Robinson all had double digit kills as they came up big late. Loberg had five of her ten kills in the last frame.
And the fans played a part in the final points. Dayton had two service errors for UW’s last two points, including the match point that senior middle blocker Danielle Hart said she’d give that point to the student section.
This is what home court advantage looks like, and why a rowdy student section is important.— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) September 3, 2021
YOU won match point @TheMadHouseUW & @AreaRED.
We could use you again tonight...and the rest of the season.
(Excuse the peaking...but it was LOUD) pic.twitter.com/C8pCQpZ7KZ
“The student support tonight was awesome,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “It’s exciting to get them back on campus. That was a fun environment they helped contribute to tonight.”
The match was a win, but both the players and Sheffield were disappointed with their performance. Sheffield in particular praised Dayton on their improvement throughout the course of the match, something he highlighted he wanted Wisconsin to show more of going forward.
Friday night’s match was also a sweep (25-16, 25-14, 25-20) but had more of those signs of improvement throughout the match.
Once again, the Badgers started out quickly, getting the score up to 11-7 in the first set before Dayton called time out. The Flyers battled back with freshman outside hitter Lexie Almodovar leading the way. She had six kills in the first set and the score got to 12-12.
Then Izzy Ashburn started serving for UW and took the Badgers on a 7-0 run before Wisconsin closed out the set. The defensive specialist had three aces on the night as she also pitched in on the back row with six digs.
Put your seatbelts on! @Jade_Demps15 making it one bumpy ride for the Flyers! pic.twitter.com/jyZAau41Xa— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) September 4, 2021
UW closed out the first set and second set in relatively easy fashion. Sophomore outside hitter Jade Demps — who saw more time as freshman Julia Orzoł didn’t play during this series — had seven kills after having eight kills in the last game.
Despite the decline in output, Demps had a better hitting percentage, and got some praise from her head coach after the match.
“I thought Jade had a really nice match,” Sheffield said. “She could be a real big part of our team. That’s what you want to see: A young player going through their career, they get a bigger presence as they get going. I thought from night one to night two she did a better job with that.”
For her part, Demps said she was challenged by Sheffield after the first match to increase her presence, and she worked on that before the match.
“I took a lot of time yesterday and today thinking about what I needed to do and what my team needed from me, and I took the attitude of ‘I’m going to leave it all on the court and just go as hard as I can,’” Demps said.
Surely you can't be serious with these Top Plays.— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) September 4, 2021
(Oh this might be a deep cut...let's see who gets it) pic.twitter.com/7VFVzBPDnm
Overall, the Badgers did a better job of playing resiliently and getting better throughout the match. In the third set, the Flyers had their lowest hitting percentage of the match — the opposite of what happened in the first game when they had their best offensive showing.
Although the team improved defensively, the Badgers hit for their worst percentage in the final frame. Fifth year senior Dana Rettke acknowledged that there’s work to be done even if other areas improved.
“There’s still points to be had, we have to be a little bit cleaner in some areas but overall we responded well,” Rettke said.
While Wisconsin had a few more errors in the final frame, Kelly Sheffield felt the team responded well and stayed in the moment better in the second game.
“When you’re playing really good teams, you got to be great at staying in the moment and being present. If you are thinking about what just happened or something else coming in front of you, you’re going to be toast with really good teams,” Sheffield said.
And the Badgers will be facing a great team soon. Next Friday, the No. 3 ranked, and defending champion, Kentucky Wildcats come to the Field House for a marquee non-conference showdown. While Wisconsin has already proved their play against a top team in Baylor, they know they’ll need to do more from this series to become a “great” team.
“I don’t think that that’s an area we should be satisfied in at all,” Dana Rettke said. “Making those small adjustments are what great teams do and that’s what we’re going to have to do going forward.”
But the depth was showcased during this series without Julia Orzoł as Demps and freshman Anna Smrek came in and played well. And if Wisconsin can get another weapon back in Orzoł, the matchup against Kentucky is all the more exciting for both sides.