After a dicey opening set, the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers (10-1, Big Ten, 19-1 overall) took care of the Michigan State Spartans (5-6, 13-9) in straight sets (25-23, 25-17, 25-16) thanks in part to a big night from Sarah Franklin.
The former Michigan State-standout, Franklin had 17 kills to lead all players while hitting an efficient .500 on the night. In fact, despite a first set where the offense struggled to click, the Badgers swung for a total percent of .371 and hit over .500 in the second and third frames.
But the match did not start out so swinging for UW. The Badgers faced a 6-1 deficit before climbing out of the hole a bit to be down 15-12 at the opening timeout. The Badgers got their first lead thanks to Frank the Tank hitting a kill at 23-22; she then got the set-sealing kill 25-23 to help UW save face after a sleepy start.
The Badgers struggled to hit efficiently in the first set, but found their groove in the second. Whether it was a mix of better passing opening up the offense or settled nerves, the trio of middle hitters — CC Crawford, Carter Booth and Anna Smrek — found some openings on the offense and started to become a factor against the Spartans. Those three players had zero errors and combined for 20 kills for Wisconsin with Smrek and Booth each tallying eight kills while Crawford notching four.
At the first media timeout in the second set, UW was up 15-9, but MSU clawed their way back. Aliyah Moore and Evie Doezema were the main offensive factors that helped an improving Spartan team to stay in the match to cut the UW lead to 18-15. But a timely kill from Booth and an ace from libero Julia Orzoł helped the Badgers over the line in the second.
It was the same story in the third set: the middles for Wisconsin overwhelmed MSU. Booth, Crawford and Smrek all finished with over .500 hitting percentage, which is typical for Booth and Smrek, who are first and second in the conference in hitting percentage.
The only sad spot for the Badgers was the offensive struggles of graduate senior Temi Thomas-Ailara. The former Northwestern star struggled with just one kill and six attack errors, hitting -.357 on the match.
Wisconsin’s next match is a historic Border Battle — it will be the Big Ten’s first every game on network television — at home against Minnesota (6-5, 10-9) at 3:25 Central Time at the Field House. The match will be on FOX.