Thomas, Wisconsin sweep three games over weekend earn HotelRED Invitational title

first_imgPlaying in front of their home crowd for the first time this season, the Wisconsin volleyball team took only 10 sets to be crowned the HotelRED Invitational champions over the weekend. The No.4-ranked Badgers improved to 8-0 on the season with wins against Ball State, Miami (Fla.) and Missouri State.Host Wisconsin cruised to a three-set victory over Ball State (3-6) Saturday night in the finale of the tournament to secure the championship. Sparked by three early kills from senior outside hitter Ellen Chapman, the Badgers jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first set, forcing Ball State to call timeout.“I think we came out in front of our home crowd, and we’re here to show them what we’re made of,” senior right-side hitter Courtney Thomas said. “We’re trying to play every game the same no matter who we’re playing.”Thomas went on to be named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, and sophomore setter Lauren Carlini knew who to go to in those big moments.“Courtney was putting balls down and being really consistent,” Carlini said. “She’s kind of been our rock this season, as far as when we need points, we’re gonna go to her.”After the quick start, the Badgers would not look back. The closest the Cardinals would come in the set would be 11-5. Redshirt senior Julie Mikaelsen came off the bench at the end of the set and had two kills to finish out the set 25-11.The Cardinals were the hot team at the beginning of the second set. After Ball State went up 7-4, the Badgers fought back, with an ace from Thomas, a kill from sophomore middle blocker Haleigh Nelson, and a kill from Thomas to tie it up at 7.From there, the teams would remain neck-and-neck, with neither team gaining more than a two point edge until 15-15. UW then went on a 3-0 run, highlighted by two Thomas kills and an ace from Chapman.That kick-started a 10-2 run to close out the set. Several attack errors by Ball State, plus two kills from Thomas, put the Badgers up 24-17, when senior defensive-specialist Kt Kvas aced the Cardinals to secure the second set for Wisconsin.The Badger offense exploded to start the third set. Three kills from Chapman and a kill apiece from Nelson and freshman outside hitter Kelli Bates were key components of a 8-1 run.Senior Caroline Workman then saw her first action of the game and made the most of it. The defensive specialist served three times, forced one error and aced the Cardinals the other two times.Every Badger on the roster saw time in the match except for junior Romana Kriskova who has been dealing with a knee injury.“We had a lot of subbing that was going on and I thought we flowed with that,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “When the subs were happening, we were continuing to play well, and last week we weren’t able to do that … there was a little bit of growth in regards to that from this week to last week.”Ball State would battle back from a 12-2 deficit, though. The Cardinals clawed their way to a 21-18 score, when Sheffield called timeout to settle his team down. Wisconsin ultimately pulled out a 25-20 win to complete the sweep of the Cardinals and a tournament victory in front of their home crowd.Missouri State Perhaps it was the noon start time that left the Badgers feeling groggy and mystified by Missouri State (6-5).Wisconsin dropped the first set of the match against the Bears 29-27. Until that point, the Badgers had lost only two other sets the entire season.UW finally woke up and punched back, knocking out Missouri State in the second set 25-13. They would cruise to wins in the next two sets, 25-21 and 25-9, to down the Bears.“We weren’t real happy with the way we started this morning,” Sheffield said following the victory against Ball State. “I thought we responded appropriately the following match [against Ball State].”Four Badgers had double-figure kills in the match. Chapman led the way with 14 kills, while Thomas had 12. Nelson recorded 11 kills, while redshirt senior middle-blocker Dominique Thompson added 10.Both junior libero Taylor Morey and Carlini had 16 digs, while Carlini’s 51 assists paved the way for the Badger attack and a double-double.Miami Emotions were running high Friday evening, as the matchup against Miami (5-4) was the first time the Badgers were playing in front of their home crowd this season. In addition, Wisconsin dropped the banner commemorating their underdog run to the National Championship game in 2013.The Badgers channeled that energy and took down Miami in straight sets (25-12, 25-15, 25-19). Bates led the way for the Badgers with a career-high 14 kills.“It was pretty surreal,” Bates said. “I’ve never been in that kind of environment before so it was really fun being in front of a crowd that big and that exciting. These fans are really excited for us, so that makes it really easy to play in front of them.”last_img read more