Volleyball: Badgers take down Cardinals, Tar Heels at ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Gritty.That’s the word Wisconsin volleyball head coach Kelly Sheffield used to describe his team after two impressive wins over North Carolina and Louisville this past weekend in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.“[It was] a much better weekend with how we played …compared to our opening weekend,” Sheffield said. “We’re obviously pleased. We’re taking the necessary steps to be a better team. We’re a lot more physical.”It’s these kinds of developments the third-year coach has repeatedly prompted his team to undertake after a season opening loss to then unranked Western Kentucky.The Badgers took on No. 18 North Carolina Friday night in their first taste of action on the weekend with some questions still lingering over a developing front-line, but swept the match in three sets.The largely underclassmen unit rallied behind junior Lauren Carlini and experienced sophomore Kelli Bates, each of whom delivered noteworthy performances in the mind of their coach.Sheffield recanted watching Carlini, who had 30 assists in the match, stay on the court after the win because she was disappointed with her performance.“After our match … [Carlini] walks out to the court,” Sheffield said. “I’m on my way to a radio interview and she’s walking with me and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ Then she said, ‘I just have to set some balls. Just let me do my thing.’ They are trying to figure it out. But we are trying to build that connection between her and new hitters and it’s just taking some time.”The match was hotly contested throughout each set with the Badgers’ winning by only three, five and six points, which coaches and players described as a defensive stalemate.Aside from Carlini’s feelings about her performance, she set up her teammates well and prompted Bates to deliver 12 kills on the night. Junior middle blocker Haleigh Nelson hit at a .579 attacking percentage alongside 11 kills.The Badgers would fight onward to a 3-1 win against Louisville Saturday night.Despite the Cardinals’ stout defense, Bates and Carlini would continue their glowing performances.Behind Carlini’s 47 assists, Bates would go on to hit an impressive 16 kills, one shy of her career high.Carlini also ignited the likes of Lauryn Gillis and Romana Kriskova, who had 12 and 10 kills, respectively.“I was especially pleased with how Romana [Kriskova] looked that second night,” Sheffield said. “Her and Tionna [Williams], we were both trying to get them the ball an awful lot on Saturday and I thought those two carried a bigger weight than what they had done the first four matches.”With stellar performances all around, Sheffield said he is looking forward to this weekend’s Badger Classic, when the Badgers will take on Georgia and Kent State.