Madison. – Despite serving for match point twice in the fifth set, the Wisconsin volleyball team dropped its first match of the season, losing its home opener in five sets on Friday night in the UW Field House. The Badgers dropped a 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 17-15 decision to Kansas in the InnTowner Invitational.
After winning the first two sets, Kansas (6-3) rallied to take the next two sets and send the match to a decisive first set. Unlike last weekend at the NDSU Classic where the Badgers rallied from a 0-2 deficit, this time it was the Jayhawks who came back to take the match.
"I thought we battled and fought like crazy against a really good team that returns everybody from the top-10 RPI team except one," said first-year head coach Kelly Sheffield. "We had to change our lineup about 48 hours ago. We gave away a few points that you wish you had back, but I thought we played fairly clean regardless."
The Badgers played without senior starter Annemarie Hickey, who injured her ankle in practice on Wednesday.
"Deme Morales was really, really good tonight," said Sheffield. "She's a warrior and has a heart of a lion. Her and Courtney Thomas and Taylor Morey, the three of them gave us a chance with their ball control but when you lose a great player like Annemarie Hickey, it makes it tough. She covers a lot of ground for us, but I thought we did a really good job of trying to keep that minimized, so I was proud of our effort."
Wisconsin (6-1) won the first set with no problem, hitting .364 (15 kills-3 errors-33 attempts), maintaining the lead the entire time. Set two was a different story as it featured 14 ties and six lead changes. With a kill from junior Dominique Thompson, the Badgers managed to put away set two.
Kansas jumped out to a 17-10 lead in set three and went on to its first set win. Attack errors were the Badgers' worst enemy, as they hit just .023 (9-8-44) for the set.
Set four was a near repeat of the third period as errors were key once again with the Badgers hitting just .081 (11-8-37).
Set five was a battle that featured 14 ties and seven lead changes. Junior Deme Morales provided the spark to keep the Badgers alive, tallying five kills and a service ace. Wisconsin served for match point at 14-13 and again at 15-14 as Morales teamed with Thompson on a block to give UW its first match point. Morales put away a kill to give the Badgers their second match point.
But a kill by KU's Sara McClinton tied the set at 15 before a UW hitting error and a Jayhawk block gave Kansas the upset.
"They're good," said Sheffield of the Jayhawks. "Every game was neck and neck. We were up 2-0, but they could have easily been up 2-0. Any of those games could have been reversed.
"I don't know if it was anything that we did poorly or they did well. A couple of our players might have gotten a little bit tired. Defensively, they really picked it up on their side of the net. Offensively, they were hitting some shots that were working for them. When it got right down to it, we had about five swings to win the match and we couldn't put the ball away."
Morales finished with a career-high 17 kills while adding a career-high 13 digs for her first career double-double. She also added a career-best four blocks.
Two other Badgers recorded double-doubles as freshman Lauren Carlini put up 50 assists and tied her career best with 12 digs. Junior Courtney Thomas tallied 11 kills and 19 digs. Junior Ellen Chapman shared team-high honors with Morales with 17 kills.
The Jayhawks finished with a 68-60 advantage in kills and hit .225 (68-27-182) compared to .168 (60-29-184) for UW.
Kansas was led by sophomore Tiana Dockery, who led all players with 21 kills, and senior Caroline Jarmoc, who added 17 kills.
KU also finished with more digs (76-72) and more blocks (12-9) to win the match. Brianne Riley led all players with 28 digs while Jarmoc had a match-high seven blocks.
Transfer libero Tayor Morey added 17 digs for the Badgers while Thompson led UW with six blocks.
The InnTowner Invitational wraps up tomorrow with three matches, starting at 11 a.m. as the Badgers square off with Milwaukee.
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