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Badgers volleyball: Spring season opens with sweep of Illinois

April 2, 2017 GMT

AURORA, Ill. -- The University of Wisconsin volleyball team used a blend of the old and the new to open its spring season with a sweep of Illinois at the Great Lakes Center on Saturday.

Senior-to-be Lauryn Gillis led all players with 19 kills, while incoming freshmen Sydney Hilley, Dana Rettke and Mariah Whalen all made significant contributions as the Badgers beat the Fighting Illini 25-21, 27-25, 26-24.

Hilley, in her first match succeeding All-American Lauren Carlini as setter, had more than 40 assists, seven digs, two blocks and one service ace, according to unofficial statistics. Rettke, starting at middle blocker, had 13 kills and two blocks, while Whalen at outside hitter had six kills and one block.

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“I thought they all did well,” coach Kelly Sheffield said. “They all have things they have to get better at but none of them played small. They were having fun, they were connecting with their teammates. I thought they all had some great moments. They all have some great futures ahead of them.”

The Badgers hit .230 for the match, compared to .224 for the Illini. Each team had 47 digs. Rising senior Kelli Bates led UW with 13 digs while sophomore M.E. Dodge had 12 digs to go along with two service aces.

“There were a lot of really good rallies for both sides,” Sheffield said. “The effort was good for both sides. I thought our players, when they made errors, they responded the right way. They didn’t try to play it safe. They kept battling.”

The Badgers had to rally to win each set. They trailed 20-19 in the first set before coming back behind four kills by Gillis and one by Rettke for the decisive point.

Set two was tied at 23 and Illinois fought off two set points before Gillis put away two kills to give UW a 2-0 lead.

The Badgers led by as many as eight points in the third set but the Illini came back to tie it at 24. Rettke then had back-to-back kills to clinch the match.

The Badgers’ next match will be April 9 against Creighton at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.