first_imgAfter losing all three of their matches against Penn State last season, Wisconsin’s volleyball team failed to turn their bad fortune around with another loss in University of Wisconsin’s Field House Wednesday night.No. 3 Penn State (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten) significantly outplayed No. 5 Wisconsin (9-2, 0-1 Big Ten) in front of a sold-out crowd. The Nittany Lions swept the Badgers in straight sets because of their impressive defensive game plan, aggressiveness at the net and balanced offensive attack.Senior right-side hitter Courtney Thomas, who racked up a combined 32 kills over the weekend against Washington and USC, was nearly nonexistent in the offensive game. She managed only one kill Wednesday.“They shut down Courtney Thomas,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “Their defensive game plan was probably a little bit better than what ours was.”Penn State made it a point of emphasis to keep one of Wisconsin’s biggest hitters quiet. They would often send two players to Thomas’ side of the court when she was about to hit, disrupting her shots. PSU out-blocked UW 16-14 in the match.Sheffield said that Penn State was determined to take away, not only Thomas’ part of the court, but the slides to the middle as well, making life rather difficult for the Badgers.The constant hands from the Nittany Lions in Thomas’ face caused her to hit an alarmingly low .167. As a team, Wisconsin only hit .148, compared to Penn State’s .288 hitting percentage. Thomas also had four errors throughout the match.Wisconsin senior outside hitter Ellen Chapman had a game-high 13 kills, one of the few bright spots for the Badgers. She said it was a combination of Penn State’s mobile back-line defense and net presence that led to the Badgers’ offensive woes.“I think both areas of their game are really solid,” Chapman said. “They’re blocking was really solid and they were getting a lot of hands and a lot of touches on everything, and that just made it harder for the hitters on our team to get kills.”“They have a really good backcourt, they were making some plays that I thought were down, and someone would just come out of nowhere and get it up.”One of the plays like the one Chapman mentioned was a long rally early in the first set. Several times it looked like Wisconsin had finally forced an error on Penn State, but the Nitanny Lions managed to get the point after many diving saves and stops. That rally was symbolic for the rest of the evening, with Penn State simply doing more than Wisconsin.Offensively, Penn State wisely avoided junior libero Taylor Morey. She was coming off a weekend in which she had 29 digs in both matches. Against the Nittany Lions, she had only nine.“They weren’t hitting to Taylor Morey, they were going to other areas of the court,” Sheffield said.Penn State senior setter Micha Hancock was effective against Wisconsin the entire evening, as she racked up 38 assists. But that wasn’t what made her a thorn in UW’s side. She tallied nine kills throughout the match, and only freshman outside hitter Simone Lee had more kills for the Nittany Lions with 12.Hancock would often catch the Badgers flat-footed, faking a set pass then quickly spiking the ball over the net before Wisconsin could react.A positive for the Badgers was the home crowd. A sellout was announced before the game, and the entire inner bowl of 6,012 people at the UW Field House was full by first-serve.“To walk in and see a full house and it being sold out prior to match time is just awesome,” Sheffield said. “It means so much to our program to have that kind of support.”The crowd got behind the Badgers when they fell behind early on in the sets. In the second and third sets, that confidence from the crowd got Wisconsin back in the game when they tied it up in the second and took the lead at one point in the third.“It makes me really disappointed that we didn’t win this match for them,” sophomore setter Lauren Carlini, who had 33 assists, said. “They got really loud at points, and they’re a very intelligible crowd when it comes to we’re starting to lose a little bit, they need to get louder.”Fans and fellow student athletes:You are truly amazing, and we love having your support. Stick with us, and we promise you won’t regret it.— Lauren Carlini (@laurencarlini) September 25, 2014 In those sets though, UW was never able to build and maintain a lead, something Sheffield attributes to the play of Penn State.“Every time we got close, they answered,” Sheffield said.Penn State was also able to bury the Badgers late in sets because Wisconsin’s fatigue began to show, according to Sheffield.“I thought we looked a little bit tired,” Sheffield said. “Anytime you see that from your team, that’s on the coaching staff. That’s on us.”Despite his team’s disappointing performance Wednesday, Sheffield hopes it does not discourage the fans from coming back and supporting the Badgers.“We were really excited by the energy in the crowd, we were really excited about the numbers in the crowd,” Sheffield said. “We hope that they continue to come back.”Unbelievable energy in the Field House last night. Thanks for the awesome support! Team will continue to get better. See you Sunday vs OSU!— Kelly Sheffield (@KellyPSheffield) September 25, 2014 We have the best fans around, it’s a marathon not a sprint so stick with us this year we need yall #onwisconsin— Haleigh Nelson (@haleighnelson1) September 25, 2014last_img