During a dominant first set for Wisconsin, the Badger block forced a lot of errors from the Canes as UW strolled to a 25-11 first frame victory.
Although the Badgers only had three blocks in the opening set, Miami’s attempts to hit around the block or hit hands failed, leading to a -.156 hitting percentage off of 12 errors in the first.
Wisconsin wins the first set 25-11 over the Canes.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) September 9, 2023
The Badger defense forced Miami to a -.156 hitting percentage that first set, forcing 12 attack errors and getting three blocks pic.twitter.com/0wr1O9R3z6
Outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara, who pitched in with three blocks and had a team-leading 12 kills, said that UW’s block is “scary” and she felt the unit did a good job in making their presence felt and maybe getting in the Canes’ heads.
“We put up a really good block tonight,” Thomas-Ailara said. “They had to hit some different shots.”
The block again started hot in the second frame, with senior CC Crawford and junior Anna Smrek pinning a shot down to give Wisconsin a 6-4 lead. But the Canes started to make adjustments on hitting around the block and the game opened up for them.
Miami limited the errors and found more kills as the teams traded points in the second set. Grace Lopez — who initially came on as a sub for the Canes — led the team with nine kills as some of their other main hitters struggled to minimize those mistakes. Lopez had a kill to knot the second set at 17-all.
Head coach Kelly Sheffield said Miami, which is likely to be an NCAA Tournament team this year, had a very different attacking look than last night’s opponent, Arizona. The Canes’ sets were flatter, meaning their attacking tempo was faster, making it more difficult to block. Although Sheffield said good serving helped neutralize that speed in the first and third sets, the Canes were able to make Wisconsin’s life tough in the second.
But a kill from Smrek put UW up 22-20 before Thomas-Ailara had back-to-back kills to push UW to set point. Then, she teamed up with sophomore Carter Booth on a block to get the clinching point of the tight set.
Senior setter MJ Hammill played a huge role in the Badgers’ lights out first set, but she said the Canes responded well to UW’s initial game plan. Although she said the team felt tired facing off against the fresher team, the team was able to find the adjustments that worked to power through.
“It’s always going to be a grind. There are no easy matches, and you just have to keep working,” Hammill said.
Sheffield said the team hit .594 tonight with Hammill at setter as the senior from Greenwood, Indiana posted 22 assists and six digs. Her serving was also crucial in the final frame, as she helped lead a 6-0 run including two back-to-back aces to give UW a 18-11 lead.
Overall, Sheffield felt the Badgers were incredibly clean tonight. As the Canes had 31 kills and 23 errors on 105 attempts to hit just .076 on the night, Wisconsin was an efficient .341 and forced a sideout — winning a point while the other team serves — 86% of the time. Four attackers hit above .300 percent while the Badgers recorded just eight attacking errors.
A clean sweep for two games in a row is good as Wisconsin heads into two important clashes to end its conference season.
First up is a rivalry game against No. 24 Marquette — though that may change as the Golden Eagles are 2-4 — on Wednesday at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. Next, is a Top 5 clash against the No. 3 Florida Gators (5-0) in Gainesville.