MADISON - The University of Wisconsin (7-3) volleyball team quelled a red hot University of South Florida squad with a 3-0 win (25-17, 25-10, 25-12) in the first match of the Wisconsin InnTowner Invitational Friday night at the UW Fieldhouse. The setback snaps a four-game winning streak for the Bulls, who fall to 4-6 on the season and 0-5 all-time against the Badgers.
Both teams entered the match riding four-game winning streaks, which included seven sweeps out of the eight combined decisions.
In her first start of the season, junior middle blocker Caitlyn Breen posted six blocks, one shy of her career high. The BIG EAST freshman of the week Valerie El Houssine led the Bulls offensively with seven kills. Senior libero Janice Rivera notched a double-digit dig total (11), while freshman setter Shelbie Dailey tallied 16 assists.
In a matchup that featured two of the top blocking defenses in the country, USF was outblocked by its opponent for the first time all season. The Bulls entered the contest ranked eighth nationally with 3.14 blocks per set, while the Badgers were tabbed 19th in the country with 2.73 blocks per set.
“We had the wheels fall off tonight,” head coach Claire Lessinger said. “We struggled out of the gates with our passing and it crumbled from there. Wisconsin was physical and efficient and it was too much for us. We’ll look to bounce back against Western Michigan.”
The Bulls raced out to a quick start in front of a raucous crowd at the UW Field House. USF scored the first four points of the match due to the defensive play of Breen, who had a hand in the first two blocks of the contest. Breen registered her third block of the contest to stop a 3-0 Wisconsin spurt at 13-11, which fueled a 3-0 run for USF to knot the score at 13-13. The Badgers rattled off six straight points to pull ahead 19-13 as they eventually took the first set, 25-17. USF managed to outhit the host Badgers .391 to .361 in the opening frame as a result of committing only error for the entire set.
Breen picked up where she left off in the second set as she rejected Wisconsin’s Dominique Thompson for her fourth block of the game. The Bulls hung tough for the early part of the second set, trading points with the Badgers up to 6-6. Following four straight points by Wisconsin, El Houssine netted back-to-back scores. Dailey managed a perfect set to El Houssine who put the ball away from the left side. El Houssine fired a rocket serve down the right side for a service ace on the ensuing play to cut the Badger lead to 10-8. Wisconsin answered with a devastating 11-1 run, thwarting USF’s chance to even the match at 1-1 heading into the break.
The host Badgers didn’t waste any time in the third set as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Trailing 20-7, USF netted four straight points behind a pair of blocks from Walton and Breen, a kill by freshman Delaney Bell and a Wisconsin attack error. Wisconsin ended the match on a 4-1 run to account for the 25-12 final.
USF looks to rebound with a match against Western Michigan Saturday at 6 p.m.