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Wisconsin Volleyball: Badgers sweep No. 21 Arkansas after five-set thriller previous night

The Badgers may have escaped Wednesday night. They made it look easy this time.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Sarah Franklin was a huge factor in Wisconsin’s two wins against the No. 21 Arkansas Razorbacks. One was a five-set thriller, the other was an impressive sweep
Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Regular service resumed Thursday night in what is expected to be a dominant UW volleyball season.

After a five-set thriller scare Wednesday night, the Badgers (4-0) made the right adjustment against the No. 21 Arkansas Razorbacks (2-2) to sweep the feisty Hogs (25-22, 25-16, 25-17).

Three Badgers had double digit kills in the second match as the offense hummed in the second and third sets to hit for .387. Outside hitter Sarah Franklin had 12 kills, senior Devyn Robinson had 11 while middle blocker Anna Smrek finished with 10 while hitting .562.

In the first set, both teams played a scrappy affair with both squads hitting below .200. Lots of long rallies and digs were the story of the first frame, but UW came out on top thanks to a 3-0 run with the score knotted at 19-19. The cherry on top there was an ace from sophomore Gülce Güçtekin, who was once again the libero.

Robinson and graduate senior outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara finished the opening frame with four kills, with Thomas-Ailara polishing off the set point 25-22.

After last night’s roller coaster match that included fighting off five set points down 24-19 in the third set to win 26-24, the tight opening set made it seem like another nail biter could be possible Thursday.

But Wisconsin pushed those thoughts aside as the Badgers went up 17-10 in the second frame. UW rarely let off the gas en route to a 50 kill night with just 11 errors. UW hit .528 in that frame while the Hogs still struggled to fight against the Wisconsin defense.

Despite the exertion last night, it was the Razorbacks who looked worn down as the match progressed. Arkansas’s spitfire, 5-foot-7 outside hitter Jillian Gillan had 15 kills after a 22-kill performance Wednesday. Gillan was the epitome of Arkansas’s fight both nights, but she was the only spark for the Hogs Thursday.

Arkansas had a better fight in the third, holding a 9-9 tie with Gillan leading the way, but the Badgers started an avalanche soon after with a pair of 4-0 runs to put the match out of reach for the Hogs.

Güçtekin’s defensive spark and passing were great tonight in one of her best performances. The Turkish libero is coming into her own, and becoming a fan — and announcer — favorite with her enthusiasm and the “GG Leap” into the arms of a teammate after a huge play. She and junior Julia Orzoł had two aces each as the Badgers’ serving play was much better after last night’s 17 service error display.

While Güçtekin’s efforts were fairly lauded, UW’s whole team defense was inspired. Five players had double digit digs. Setters MJ Hammill and Izzy Ashburn had double doubles with assists and digs, while Orzoł, Güçtekin and Franklin — who also had a double double — helped the Badgers post 67 digs, compared to just 37 for Arkansas.

This would be the exact bounceback Kelly Sheffield would be hoping for. Arkansas’s smaller, faster attack proved prickly for the Badgers, but the right adjustments were made and the level of play seemed to increase. With the two nights in a boisterous road environment — the broadcast said the first match and the second match were Arkansas’s top and third most attended matches, respectively — UW survived with an unblemished record.

The Badgers will return to the Field House Sunday afternoon for their home opener against Tennessee (3-0) at 1 p.m.