first_imgHaving once dreamed of a Big Ten championship, the UW volleyball team is looking for some answers after another disappointing loss.Only this time around, the Fieldhouse faithful were in attendance to witness it. The Badgers (18-5, 10-4 Big Ten) lost for just the second time at home this year to the Purdue Boilermakers (21-4, 10-4) in four games.With a 30-23, 26-30, 30-28, 30-23 victory, Purdue was not just able to avenge its five-game home loss to the Badgers earlier this season, but also pulled even into second place with Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings.UW head coach Pete Waite said the Boilermakers were able to use their potent defense to take down the mighty Badger attack, which ended up with a disastrous .166 hitting percentage.”We know that’s Purdue’s forte,” Waite said. “They increased the size of their block this year with getting [outside hitter Danita] Merlau in the front row, and [middle hitter Stephanie] Lynch really makes it tough to attack them at the net; they’re also picking up a lot of balls in the back row. They made a lot of really solid plays.”Middle blocker Taylor Reineke led the Badgers with a .303 hitting percentage, notching 12 kills against only two errors. Reineke also led the team in blocks, with one solo and seven assists.”Going into this match, we knew they would be tough because they have strong, physical blockers and their defense is really scrappy, they pick up a lot of [digs],” Reineke said. “It’s just really frustrating when you hit it as hard as you can, and you think it’s a really good shot, but they’re able to [return the shot].”Waite said the team succeeded in some of its goals, such as successfully containing Purdue’s All-American setter, Renata Dargan. Dargan keyed the offense with 57 assists, but came up with a negative hitting percentage with five kills and six errors.”Usually Dargan’s much more active, but we really held her in check,” he said. “But some other [Boilermakers] had some pretty big nights that really helped them out.”Illinois thriller: UW pulled off an escape act on Friday night, barely sliding by Illinois (13-12, 4-10) in five games, 30-22, 23-30, 30-24, 26-30, 15-10 to secure a weekend split.Wisconsin was able to survive the match against a competent five-game squad — Illinois entered the weekend with a 5-2 record in matches that went the distance — mainly with defense, holding the Fighting Illini to a .203 team hitting mark.Jocelyn Wack, the UW libero, led the charge with 33 digs, falling just two short of her career-best.”On some nights, you’re not really clicking on all cylinders,” Waite said. “Wack kept us in the match with some great defensive plays, and everybody really battled behind her.”Wack’s challenge was even more impressive considering she was assigned the unenviable task of defending blasts all night from outside hitter Rachel VanMeter, who currently ranks third in the nation with 5.70 kills per game. VanMeter put down 27 kills against 10 errors for a .243 hitting percentage.”The best hitters have a lot of different shots, so you might set up the block in one spot and your defense in another spot, [but] if they find two or three other spots, the best hitters will go there,” Waite said. “So we really had to just make some great efforts defensively to touch the ball no matter if [the shot comes] right at us or eight feet away.”The Badger offense countered with 19 kills from Meierotto and 16 from Jeffers. Despite Wisconsin’s struggles on the attack in hitting just .220, Jeffers was able to hit .393, leading all starting players in the match.UW’s big guns stepped up when it counted. Jeffers, along with captains Sheila Shaw and Aubrey Meierotto, combined for seven kills and four block assists in the final game.”They’re pretty steady, they don’t get too rattled,” Waite said. “That’s been a sign of them all season, and that’s been great.”While hitting just two aces in the match, the Fighting Illini donated 13 service errors, including a costly one by setter Stephanie Obermeier to give the Badgers a 14-10 lead and a match point in the fifth game.Meierotto said the Badgers, now 4-1 in five-game matches, have benefited greatly from the experiences of tightly contested matches.”It just challenges us, and I think that’s a good thing,” she said. “We have to learn how to fight through those games if we want to be one of the best teams in the country. We know we’re going to be playing and going up against teams like that, and it’s always a good test for us.”last_img

UW suffers setback against Purdue

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