Down the stretch, the No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers (14-3 Big Ten, 23-3 overall) didn’t do enough against the No. 16 Purdue Boilermakers (12-5, 18-8), dropping their second straight match on the road, this time in five sets (25-22, 19-25, 22-25, 25-23, 14-26).
Although middle blocker Anna Smrek was on the trip, the Canadian star did not play for the second consecutive match, leading to another improvised rotation with Julia Orzoł once again stepping into the front row and Gülce Güçtekin becoming libero.
For a second-straight match, that lineup change really seemed to affect the Badgers, who lacked a consistent option outside of outside hitter Sarah Franklin. The 6-foot-4 hitter played well once again, firing home 28 kills on .343 hitting, including notching eight in the first set alone.
In that opener, the Badgers faced a 6-0 deficit early on before battling back to win the first set 25-22. While Franklin was a bright spot, other Wisconsin players struggled. It took a few sets for Devyn Robinson to get into gear and she opened the match in the negatives because of the Purdue block. It was a rare Wisconsin match when they were out-blocked, with Purdue notching 12 to the Badgers’ 10.
Although Wisconsin got out to a quick start in the second set — leading 8-3 and forcing the Boilermakers into a timeout — Purdue stormed back in the set to go up 16-15 and force a Wisconsin timeout. The Badgers were not able to come back in the second set, falling 25-19.
Purdue’s main attack was from the outside hitters Eva Hudson and Chloe Chicoine. Hudson had 30 kills while Chicoine added just 11 kills but tallied 23 digs, just behind Purdue’s libero Maddie Schermerhorn.
In a tight third set, Purdue took the lead at 15-12 and was able to keep it the whole way to go up 2-1 on the match. Although Wisconsin had a good day serving and had eight aces, the Badgers had just one ace the rest of the way.
Wisconsin bounced back in the fourth to fight for a fifth set. UW had 17 kills and zero errors in the fourth to stay alive. Carter Booth, Temi Thomas-Ailara and Carter Booth joined Franklin in double figure kills, while Orzoł had six deputizing as outside hitter again. But in the all-important fifth set, the Boilermakers came through to give UW its second-straight loss — the first time the program lost multiple matches in a row since the 2019 season.
The loss also means the Badgers are likely out of the conference title race. With Nebraska still undefeated in the conference — with a match at the Field House looming Black Friday — the Badgers will need to beat the Huskers and hope Nebraska loses again to have a shot of sharing the title.
But before any of those thoughts, Wisconsin faces a quick turnaround to try to stop the slide against a tricky Indiana Hoosiers (9-8, 19-11) squad in Bloomington on Sunday afternoon. That match is at 12:00 p.m. Central on Big Ten plus.