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Wisconsin Volleyball: Badgers’ balance leads to sweep over No. 22 Buckeyes

Temi-Thomas Ailara and Sarah Franklin had double-digit kills as UW got their third straight sweep.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
A balanced attack was the key for Wisconsin in beating No. 22 Ohio State in three sets (25-19, 25-20, 25-18) Wednesday night. It’s UW’s sixth win over a ranked opponent.
Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers (3-0 Big Ten, 12-0 overall) continue their winning ways Wednesday night, sweeping aside the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes (1-2, 4-8) in a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-18) road conference victory.

Outside hitters Sarah Franklin and Temi Thomas-Aialra posted double-digit kills — 11 and 10, respectively — but UW’s attack throughout the night highlighted the balance and depth the Badgers have.

At various points throughout the match, setters Izzy Ashburn and MJ Hammill could turn to set any Badger with success. In the first, senior Devyn Robinson had two early kills to put UW up 7-6 before some strong serving from Hammill gave UW a 4-0 run and an 11-8 lead. Middle blocker CC Crawford added two kills and an ace to put Wisconsin up 14-9, then Franklin had her turn with a couple of kills and an ace to seal the set 25-19.

For the Buckeyes, their superstar outside hitter Emily Londot was the key all night. The All-Big Ten player had 13 kills to lead all players, but she was stymied with nine attack errors and her teammate with the next highest number of kills was Rylee Rader who had just five. Although Londot is an incredible talent, it seems like the Badger block was able to key on her with OSU’s lack of depth, which helped limit Londot’s efficiency as she finished with a hitting percentage of .105.

But the second set still saw OSU sprint out to an 8-3 lead, caused in part by some attack errors from Wisconsin. The Buckeye block got going — led by Rader — with three blocks in quick succession giving OSU a 13-8 lead.

Then Thomas-Ailara caught fire for the Badgers, firing home four kills in the second set including multiple coming in a 6-0 run that gave Wisconsin turned around the deficit to give UW a 14-13 advantage.

After an impressive serving performance against Indiana Sunday, the Badgers continued to find the floor from the service line. Junior libero Julia Orzoł had a key ace to extend UW’s advantage to 17-15 in the second set. As a team, the Badgers had eight aces and just 11 service errors, with Franklin, Crawford, and sophomore Gülce Güçtekin adding two aces each.

To close out the second set, kills were traded between Thomas-Ailara and junior Anna Smrek in the final stages to win 25-20. Smrek had another efficient night for UW, finishing with eight kills on .538 hitting.

Smrek then showed off her blocking ability in the third and final set. She and sophomore Carter Booth combined on the block three times during a 6-0 run that pushed the Badgers out to a 7-3 lead. Booth finished with a ridiculous eight blocks as Wisconsin out-blocked the Buckeyes 9-4 on the night.

To close out the set from 21 points, the Badgers got kills from Franklin, then Crawford, then Thomas-Ailara before Devyn Robinson put the icing on the cake for a 12th win of the season and 21st straight Big Ten conference win. As a team, UW hit for .316 while six players had more than four kills.

Wisconsin’s next match comes back at home on Sunday, Oct. 1 against the Michigan Wolverines (0-2, 2-9). That match will be at 1:00 p.m. on Big Ten+.