Is it possible to find anything constructive in a dominating performance against two lackluster teams?For a poised men’s tennis team like Wisconsin, the answer no doubt is yes.Sunday’s doubleheader against No. 70 Illinois State and Western Illinois served as a perfect pick-me-up with Big Ten play beginning in six days against No. 10 Illinois.Winning 6-1, 6-0, the double feature allowed Wisconsin an opportunity to prepare for the tough conference season that lies ahead by building confidence and allowing younger players a chance at the action.But mostly, according to head coach Greg Van Emburgh, the team just needed to play a lot of tennis.“Overall, we got what we needed out of [the doubleheader],” he said. “I was hoping that guys in the second match would’ve been pushed a little harder… but they must have just played really well, they took care of business quickly.”“Overall I think we needed to play a lot of tennis today. Illinois is going to be a good team… and I feel like if we’re match sharp we’re going to win that match.”All eight Badgers on the active roster were able to participate in at least two matches on Sunday — five of which came away with a flawless record on the day.Confidence building was a big objective for the Badgers, and not just for the team’s less experienced players. Senior Moritz Baumann, ranked No. 13 nationally, hoped to improve in that facet of the game, as he sat with a 3-3 singles record before Sunday’s match arrived.With two singles victories as well as a win in doubles, Van Emburgh believed Baumann benefited from the opportunity.“We wanted to make sure Moritz was getting a bunch of matches so he could feel good about his game again, which I think we’re really close to doing with him,” he said. “The boy that he was playing (Jeff Cote of Western Illinois) was pretty strong — a good match for him to get some good points and to feel good about his game.”With three wins in one day, Baumann believes it can lead to better play in the future.“It’s all about confidence in tennis,” he said. “When you win, you play better automatically. When you lose, you lose confidence, so it’s good when you win those matches.”With a second chance provided by the doubleheader, freshman Billy Bertha was able to redeem a frustrating singles loss to Illinois State’s Matej Zlatkovic, in which Bertha was shutout in the last set.Paired against Francisco Ortiz of Western Illinois, Bertha didn’t let his last match haunt him, losing only two games en route to sweeping the match.Taking Baumann’s words into consideration, Bertha should be feeling good when thinking about his next match after bouncing back.For others, though, Sunday’s matches offered a chance to test the aspects of their game that have needed improvement.Freshman Chris Freeman made the development of his serve loud and clear, acing three consecutive against Western Illinois’ Rodrigo Azevedo.“We always practice different things and if it’s kind of a routine match you always try and focus on different aspects of your game, rather than just trying to get though the match,” he said. “So I worked on my serve this week and really tried to execute on that, so it helped out in the match today.”Despite the success seen on Sunday, Van Emburgh knows the team has yet to reach its summit in terms of performance. Next week’s match against Illinois will not be a litmus test of sorts like Sunday’s. And with that, Van Emburgh will continue to push the team closer to that summit.“We want to keep working on doubles to keep that sharp, make sure the teams that are out there are going to compliment each other really well – I think we’re really close to that,” he said. “I don’t think we’re peaking yet, we still have room for improvement.”
The University of Wisconsin volleyball team (11-3) started out the double match weekend by sweeping Northwestern (10-8) 3–0 Friday night before falling 3–1 to No. 7 Illinois (16-3). With the Badgers back in the UW Fieldhouse after four straight away matches, the team looked to its fans to get back on track after a loss to Iowa last Saturday.The No. 8 Badgers made quick work of the Wildcats in the first set thanks to the Badger hitting core. They put Northwestern away easy in a 25–13 opening set.But the biggest story of the night came from the Badger defense in both the back row led by libero Tiffany Clark and the front row blocking core led by Dana Rettke. Clark had 21 digs on the night and Molly Haggerty added 11 of her own.Volleyball: Badgers to square off against Big Ten rivals Northwestern, IllinoisThe University of Wisconsin volleyball team will go to battle this weekend against Illinois (10-8, 0-6 Big Ten) and Northwestern Read…Clark was impressed with the Badger’s performance in the back row.“We’ve gotten a chance to work on our discipline on defense. I thought everyone played really sharp,” said Clark.In their dominant performance, Wisconsin recorded a season-high 53 digs as a team.After the game, Rettke discussed the importance of putting up big blocks and continuing to be a productive blocking team through the season.“I think [blocking] had a pretty good impact. I thought our defense was doing really great and the backcourt picking up what we didn’t get,” Rettke said.Football: Well, you can’t win ’em allI usually wake up on Saturday mornings with low expectations for our Badgers. “Maybe they win, maybe they lose,” I Read…Rettke recorded five of the team’s eight blocks.The Badger defense continued to impress as Wisconsin made quick work of the Northwestern Wildcats winning the second set 25–14 and taking the match on a 25–15 third set.After coming off the Northwestern win, the Badgers had a short turn around for the other Big Ten team from Illinois, the No. 7 Fighting Illini. This is the second time this season the Badgers will face Chris Tamas’ Illini this season. Last time the Badgers stole three sets and the match in Illinois. The Illini were back for vengeance.But Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield knew the road ahead was challenging.“It’s just two teams that just got done playing each other a week and a half ago and two teams that are familiar with each other. I’m sure we’ll have another humdinger at our place,” Sheffield said.And a humdinger it was. The Badgers got out to a quick start in the first set, trying to continue the defensive showing and overpower Jacqueline Quade and the Illini offense. Wisconsin will win the first set in a close 25–23 score.The Illini will then battle back to take another close one 25–21. The sets were tied at one and Wisconsin had lost momentum going into the swing third set.Something special brewing in Milwaukee: How the Crew got this farIn recent weeks, the best team in baseball hasn’t been the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox or the Read…With the Badger trailing the whole second set until they tied the score at 20, the last-ditch effort lasted a little longer than usual. After the score was tied, it took 20 more rallies to finish this set. The Badgers and Illini battled back and forth through 10 extra points until the Illini eventually overpowered the Badgers and won a long set 35–33.After such a long set of rallies, the Badgers seemed to have lost more momentum and drop the final set to Illinois 25–23.Though Wisconsin took their first home loss, a personal best 26 digs from Clark was one of the high stats from the Badgers. Others include Rettke with 19 kills, Tionna Williams with six blocks and Sydney Hilley with 49 assists.The Badgers will host No. 5 Nebraska in a whiteout game at the UW Fieldhouse Friday at 8 p.m.