Wisconsin made a huge statement Wednesday night. The No. 13 Badgers dominated Penn State in the third and fourth sets to beat the No. 5 team in the country 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-13) after dropping the first set.
Who was the hero? Grace Loberg. Oh, and Dana Rettke. Not to mention their serving — and defense too. It was all there for the Badgers.
Loberg broke her career record of kills in a match that she previously set in 2017, with 21 on Wednesday. She also hit an impressive .486 percent.
Penn State zeroed in on Rettke from the start, but Loberg made that a non-issue. The Badgers had seven service aces on the night, and a lot of those came in critical moments throughout the match, giving Wisconsin the advantage.
The biggest success for Wisconsin was its ability to get Penn State out of system. The Nittany Lions were left scrambling, and the Badgers were always on. The Badgers' defense was impeccable, with 18 block assists in the win.
Jonni Parker led the Nittany Lions with 15 kills, but only hit .135 and was not able to take over offensively in her normal fashion.
In the first two sets, the level of play was even and the two teams were point-for-point. Penn State took the first 25-23 and then Wisconsin took the second 25-23. Then in the third, Wisconsin pulled away. The Badgers had a great service system, allowing them to be effective on their side of the net. The Badgers had complete momentum in the third, and then were able to keep that same feeling in the fourth and final set.
Rettke added 14 kills, and Madison Duello had 11 on the night. As a team, the Badgers out-hit the Nittany Lions .310 to .175.
With this win, the Badgers prove they're a serious Big Ten contender, pulling off a win over a top team in continuation of their extremely tough schedule. Wisconsin has now beaten then-No. 15 Purdue, Indiana and No. 5 Penn State in three straight wins, while only dropping two total sets during this span.
Follow along below for a set-by-set recap from Wednesday night's huge Big Ten match.
Penn State vs Wisconsin: Score, live updates
Wisconsin dominates again, takes fourth set 25-13 to secure the win
Two great blocks by Haggerty and Duello give Wisconsin the set point. Duello then hammers it in for the kill, and Wisconsin upsets the No. 5 team in the country 3-1.
Set 4: Wisconsin 21, Penn State 11
Scratch that... Loberg breaks her career record from 2017 of 20 kills, hitting 21 kills on the evening! Not to mention, the Badgers are starting to smell the victory, only four points away from making a huge statement.
Clark is also two away from hitting 2,000 digs for Wisconsin.
Set 4: Wisconsin 17, Penn State 10
Its still all Wisconsin, and a lot of Loberg, who is knocking on the door of 20 kills. Penn State started to chip away at the deficit, with three kills by Kaitlyn Hord and a Badger service error to bring it within four. Then Wisconsin went on a 3-0 run to extend the lead back to seven.
Set 4: Wisconsin 12, Penn State 7
Penn State has come up with some huge defensive plays, but when they are out of system, the Wisconsin block is set. The Badgers have kept up the energy and executed.
Set 4: Wisconsin 6, Penn State 3
Wisconsin came out maintaining their momentum from the last set. They were able to get Penn State out of system and in defense mode for a few points. The Nittany Lions are still battling and chipping away, but looking for some momentum to swing their way.
Wisconsin dominates, takes Set 3: 25-12
Loberg is on fire. She has 17 kills and is hitting an outstanding .433 percent. She broke her record for kills in a match after just setting it this past Sunday. Another two service aces in a row for the Badgers allow them to finish it off, in a dominating fashion. The two aces came from Lauren Barnes.
Wisconsin never let up and kept the momentum the whole set. They now have the lead 2-1.
🚨PSA🚨: @gv11loberg has been spotted with a cannon attached to her right shoulder, all opponents are advised to clear the Field House immediately‼️😱— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) October 3, 2019
That's a new season-high 15 kills for her, and we're just getting started...#Badgers pic.twitter.com/Zv1bS2vVCj
Set 3: Wisconsin 18, Penn State 10
Penn State took a timeout after a service error from Gray gave Wisconsin an 18-10 lead. The Badgers look really comfortable, and their defense has been outstanding.
Set 3: Wisconsin 15, Penn State 7
Wisconsin takes an eight point lead in set three, and they look like they really want this one. It is an all-around effort from the Badgers, with kills from Duello, Haggerty, and Hilley.
Set 3: Wisconsin 8, Penn State 5
Wisconsin has the momentum. No one can get the ball past Rettke, and Loberg keeps firing offensively to take a three-point lead.
ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW: Dana Rettke on Wisconsin's success
Set 3: WIsconsin 5, Penn State 4
To start off the set, both teams were able to get eachother out of system. Penn State went on a three-point run following the Badgers first point. Then, Wisconsin went on a four point run, including another service ace, to take the lead. 5-3. Penn State gets one more off of a Wisconsin error.
Wisconsin takes set 2: 25-23
Wisconsin has some mojo. A kill from Rettke and then Haggerty gave the Badgers set point and the crowd was behind them. But then Penn State came up with a huge block. Set point number two... Assist from Hilley to Loberg to finish it off. Wisconsin is back in this thing and ties it up 1-1.
Set 2: Wisconsin 22, Penn State 21
Serena Gray with the kill out of the timeout to stop the Wisconsin run. Then Duello fires again for Wisconsin to tie it up. Penn State took the lead 21-20 on a block assist by Parker, then Wisconsin took the lead right back off of a Nittany Lions service error and a yet another service ace for the Badgers, this time by Izzy Ashburn. We have a neck-and-neck set on our hands.
Set 2: Wisconsin 19, Penn State 18
Wisconsin just went on a 7-1 run to re-take the lead, forcing Penn State to take a time out. Tiffany Clark with a diving play to keep the ball alive in the Badgers last point.
Set 2: Penn State 17, Wisconsin 15
The hits keep coming for the Nittany Lions and Parker had 10 kills for Penn State up by four, 17-13. Loberg continues to be strong point for the Badgers, but the Nittany Lions were overpowering offensively. Sydney Hilley then delivered two consecutive aces for the Badgers to bring it within two.
Set 2: Wisconsin 11, Penn State 14
Gabby Blossom gives Penn State a 10-7 lead, and then Molly Haggerty gets her first kill of the game for the Badgers, as Rettke subs back into the game. The Nittany Lions responded with a kill from Tori Gorrell, before Rettke answered right back. The Badgers are able to get themselves within one point with another kill from Loberg, but aren't able to put together a scoring run. The Nittany Lions keep responding and maintaining their lead. Kaitlyn Hord with the Lion's kill.
Set 2: Wisconsin 6, Penn State 8
The Badgers came out strong, before the Nittany lions went on a 4-0 scoring run. Two kills from Loberg gets the Badgers back into it, but Penn State keeps the lead.
Penn State takes first set 25-23
A kill by Allyson Cathey from a Gabby Blossom assist closes out the first set for the Nittany Lions after three set points. Penn State takes the lead 1-0.
First set: Set point Penn State
Penn State got the set point opportunity off of a Rettke service error, 24-21. Grace Loberg then gets a kill for Wisconsin, keeping them alive. Another Penn State set point., and Sydney Hilley gets a service ace for Wisconsin. We're on to the third set point.
Set1: Wisconsin 19, Penn State 20
Penn State started to take control, taking the lead for the first time. They were up 17-14, and the Badgers went on a 4-0 run with a kill from Madison Duello, two block assists, and an attack error on Parker to tie it up at 17. Parker had two more kills for Penn State, and Duello had one more for the Badgers before the first service ace of the game by the Lion's Serena Gray put's Penn State back on top by one.
Here's one of those kills by Parker:
Set 1: Wisconsin 10, Penn State 10
Dana Rettke came out with two swings, and two kills for the Badgers. Penn State responded with a kill from Serena Gray, before Rettke added two more kills. Finally the Lions were able to figure it out and block Rettke for the first time. Jonni Parker gets her first kill a little later, but once she turns it on, the match evens up. Its point for point in Madison.
Pregame- 8:45 p.m.
This Big Ten matchup could be a chance for Wisconsin to make a big statement as a strong contender this year. First serve is at 9 p.m. ET live on the Big Ten Network. The Badgers and the Huskers are both 2-0 in the Big Ten coming into this matchup.
Players to watch:
Dana Rettke: Leads the team with 143 kills, 5.14 points per set
Molly Haggerty: 3.51 kills per set
Tiffany Clark: 129 digs
Izzy Ashburn: Leads Big Ten with .63 service aces per set
Jonni Parker: Leads the Lions with 3.64 kills per set
Serena Gray: .456 hitting percentage
Kendall White: 140 digs and leads backcourt defense
Penn State vs. Wisconsin: How they match up, statistically
|Tale of the table|
The Nittany Lions and Badgers are pretty comparable with the numbers they're putting up offensively. Penn State does have a significantly less amount of reception errors and errors/set — less than half — than the Badgers.
Wisconsin's defense is something that Rettke said improved significantly in its sweep of Purdue last weekend.
How to watch Penn State-Wisconsin volleyball
The matchup will be televised on Big Ten Network at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 2. It will also be available to stream on the Fox Sports App. You can listen to the game here on Penn State's Lionvision or here on 100.9 FM.
Penn State is 31-8 head-to-head against Wisconsin since 1998 and 15-3 in the past 10 seasons. But one of the Badgers' three head-to-head wins this decade came just last year in a 3-2 victory at University Park. Before that, Wisconsin's previous two wins came in 2016 and 2011.
Penn State has never lost back-to-back games against the Badgers during this series stretch.