IU volleyball faced No. 1 Wisconsin this weekend, losing in three straight sets Friday and Saturday. Wisconsin remains undefeated while IU is now 2-6.
The Hoosiers continued their trend of coming out strong in the first set and losing momentum in the next two sets in both matches.
On Friday, IU recorded eight blocks in the first set with freshman middle blocker Leyla Blackwell leading the charge. Blackwell recorded two kills and one block in the first 4 points for IU and won a long rally with a block against Wisconsin senior middle blocker Dana Rettke.
The Hoosiers kept up with the Badgers defensively but lost the first set 25-21. They had a significant decrease in energy and production for sets two and three, losing 25-17 and 25-13.
“I think early in the match [Wisconsin] played poorly,” head coach Steve Aird said. “You had a window to steal the match but we needed to put some real pressure on them and we’re just not there yet.”
The pressure on Wisconsin largely came in the form of holding Rettke, 2019-2020 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year, to seven kills in three sets. Rettke typically averages 3.37 per set.
“She’ll be player of the year,” Aird said of Rettke. “Holding her to that was unreal.”
While no player on IU had more than five kills on the night, freshman outside hitter Morgan Geddes contributed five kills at key times to stop Wisconsin momentum and put IU within a few points. The Hoosiers recorded just 21 kills total.
IU only recorded two more blocks after the first set but still got one more than Wisconsin with nine. IU had a negative hitting percentage for the first time this season with 23 attack errors.
“We have too many good arms to hit negative,” Aird said. “I thought defensively at the net we blocked a lot of balls, but against the No.1 team in the nation, you just can’t hit negatively and think you’ve got a shot.”
Luckily, the Hoosiers were able to come back and improve Saturday, hitting .250 in the three sets played. This makes them the second team this season to hit over .200 against No. 1 Wisconsin since Illinois with .202.
Similarly to Friday, the first set ended in a 25-23 Wisconsin win with IU playing confidently and cleanly, but that momentum fell off again in the second set, with the Hoosiers losing 25-11.
“I think game two was a testament to their serving,” Aird said. “We struggled to serve and receive and they kind of strangled us and didn’t let us do anything offensively.”
However, IU was able to rally in the third set and came close to a win with kills coming from freshmen Blackwell, Stockham and Geddes at key moments. Wisconsin ultimately won the set 26-24 with a go-ahead block from Rettke.
Geddes tied her career-high of eight kills, second behind Blackwell with nine. Blackwell hit 1.000 with five kills in the first two sets and posted a .643 hitting percentage on the night.
Freshman middle blocker Savannah Kjolhede and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Zulauf also hit over .500 on the night.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t pick off games one and three,” Aird said. “At some point we’ve got to grow up and find an ability to win those games.”