No.4 Wisconsin volleyball team opened its 2016 season with a 3-1 win at No. 6 Hawaii late Friday night. The Badgers downed the Rainbow Wahine 25-16, 25-16, 24-26 and 25-23.
"I thought we played well," Badgers’ head coach Kelly Sheffield said. "I thought we served and passed really well the first couple of sets. I thought defensively in the backcourt we were really, really good.”
On offense, Wisconsin dominated Hawaii, which was missing two of their top returnees, hitting .265 (64-21-162) as a team, compared to Hawaii’s .109 (42-25-156). Wisconsin kept the 'Bows out of system with some tough serving.
“You’re never happy about a loss, but if you’re going to lose, the first one of the year is probably the best one to lose,” said Hawaii’s associate head coach Jeff Hall. “It makes you hungry.”
However, the Rainbow Wahine were playing without reigning Big West Conference Player of the Year Nikki Taylor and senior middle blocker Annie Mitchem due to injury as well as their head coach. Because of this, Hawaii worked through some different line-ups and players in different positions.
The Badgers also outdug the Rainbow Wahine, 72-64, behind a career-high 22 digs from Wisconsin’s Kelli Bates. The junior took over at libero for the first time in her career. UW also recorded four service aces.
Still, UW was outblocked 11.5 – 8.0 with Williams leading all players with six blocks, but Wisconsin out-hit the 'Bows, .265-to-.109. UW had 64 kills to UH's 42.
After winning the first two sets, the Badgers faced a different Hawaii team in the third set after the Bows changed setters. Hawaii freshman Norene Iosia came off the bench to rejuvenate the Rainbow Wahine offense. UH was hitting a negative .013 (12-14-77) after two sets, but with Iosia at quarterback, the Bows hit .238 in the third set.
"At the start of game three, I thought we let our foot off the gas a little bit defensively," Sheffield added.
Wisconsin led 21-18 in the period before Hawaii rallied to tie the set at 22. The Rainbow Wahine broke a 24-24 tie off a UW service error with Hawaii freshman Kirsten Sibley scoring the set-winning kill.
In the fourth set, the Badgers rallied from a 19-16 deficit to tie the score at 20 behind two kills from freshman Molly Haggerty. Wisconsin led 22-20 but the Rainbow Wahine came back to knot the set at 22 behind two kills from Emily Maglio. Another kill from Haggerty and a huge block by Lauren Carlini and Tionna Williams gave UW its first match point at 24-22. Hawaii held off one match point before a kill by Williams gave the Badgers the win.
"In game four, we fell behind but the thing I really liked and what I saw was there wasn't any panic from our team at all," said Sheffield. "There wasn't any worry from our team. They were just really locked in."