Volleyball falls to Wisc.

Vicki Brown continues to roll after missing the ball against Wisconsin in the four-game match on Wednesday. The Illini lost to the No. 9 Badgers. Erica Magda

By Meghan Montemurro

If the Illinois volleyball team was nervous playing No. 9 Wisconsin, it didn’t show it. However, its strong play in the first two games and bid for an upset weren’t enough, as the Illini fell in four games, 41-39, 29-31, 14-30 and 20-30.

The veteran Wisconsin team shined defensively, and despite early momentum by the Illini (8-3, 0-1), they were overmatched in games three and four.

The two teams squared off in a 45-minute battle in game one, when the young Illini squad was finally able to put the Badgers away after 10 serves for game point. Game one also became the highest-scoring game in Illinois history. The previous record was 40-38 against Michigan State on Oct. 26, 2002. Senior Vicki Brown was impressed with the way the team kept fighting.

“It’s showing a lot of people that this is a totally different year and we aren’t going to be something to take lightly,” Brown said. “A lot of teams would fall as far as being that close that long especially against Wisconsin who is in the top 10.”

Illinois came out and took the first point of the game on a kill by Brown. After a big rally by the Illini, the crowd was energized, cheering on the team. The team took the momentum from two big blocks by Brown and then Laura DeBruler, to take a 13-8 lead. Illinois was able to get out in front 21-15, but the Badgers charged back, tying the game at 25.

Brown led the team with nine kills and hit .500. She finished the match with 17 kills while hitting .367. DeBruler also stepped up for the offense, contributing seven kills and finished with 21 on the night to go along with 15 digs. The two teams began trading points before the Illini finally won the game on a hitting error by Wisconsin.

“I’m really proud of our players and our game plan and everything that went into it,” Hardin said. “It’s a matter of sustaining. It’s not that we can’t play up to it, but it’s being able to sustain our level of play because we have the fight and the attitude, we just need the experience.”

In game two, Illinois was able to carry over its momentum from its first game victory. After falling behind 8-3, the Illini fought back, taking a 20-16 lead after a block by Stefanie Alde and Johannah Bangert. The ranked Badger squad was never out of it, coming back to tie at 24 after a Wisconsin block. A kill by sophomore Katherine Dykstra put them ahead 29-28 and took the game on a hitting error by Alde.

After intermission, Illinois came out flat, struggling to get anything past the Wisconsin defense. The Illini fell behind right at the start and before long found themselves down 10-20 and ultimately losing 14-30. Offensively, Illinois hit -.156 in the game with 13 hitting errors. The Badger offense performed much better, hitting .360 to go along with 12 kills.

Setter Lizzie Bazzetta said the team had no reason to come out sluggish after two intense games.

“Our energy level wasn’t as high,” Bazzetta said. “I don’t think we had confidence in ourselves that there was a reason we were in that match and won a game. We just didn’t come up with the same attitude to get after it and get after the ball.”

Down two games to one, the Illini didn’t do anything to help them defensively. Even with the score remaining close, the Badgers took the crowd out of the game. Each time Illinois closed the gap, a defensive mishap for the Illini or a kill by Wisconsin kept them out of the game, showing why they are ranked ninth in the country.

The story of the game was Wisconsin’s defense. The Badgers had 18 blocks while Illinois had only six in four games.

“They just went after it and tried to block everything,” DeBruler said. “They were a bigger team, and we need to adjust better.”

Illinois will have to rest up fast as it faces another top-10 team Saturday: No. 10 Michigan.