Back-Row Defense Sparks Panthers To Thrilling Win Over Huskies
Sept. 12, 2008
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Natalie Schmitting had 17 kills and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee played stellar defense en route to a thrilling 22-25, 25-17, 27-25, 21-25, 15-7 win over UCONN in its final match at the MSU Showcase Friday night.
Milwaukee (6-3) limited UCONN (5-2) to a .111 hitting percentage as the Panthers landed four players in double figures in digs while also collecting eight blocks. In fact, UWM's defense frustrated the Huskies to the tune of 33 hitting errors.
The defensive charge was led by Lauren Felsing's 23 digs while Becky Peters (12), Lauren Hintze (10) and Kellye Zaporski (10) also reached double figures. Peters also had 12 kills for her seventh double-double of the season, while Maddie Sueppel had six kills, seven digs and six blocks.
After the two teams split the first four sets, Milwaukee took control of the fifth set quickly. The Panthers scored 11 of the first 14 points and UCONN would never get closer than four points the rest of the way.
Lauren Lamberti and Rebecca Murray had 14 kills apiece to lead the Huskies, who already own a win over preseason Horizon League favorite Cleveland State but could not knock off another one of the league's top squads.
"It was a true team effort and a big win," UWM head coach Susie Johnson said. "Our defense was tremendous. I have said all season that Lauren really keeps us in every point of every set of every match, and it was true again tonight. She can really steady us and she is one of just a number of people we have digging the ball in the back row. We were able to frustrate their hitters and then get enough offense to win."
UCONN hung on to win the first set. The Panthers held a 12-11 lead following a Natalie Chery kill but UCONN scored the next four points to take the lead for good. The Huskies' advantage hit 19-13 on a Panther error, though Milwaukee fought back to within 21-18 on a pair of aces by Maddie Sueppel and a kill by Peters. UCONN's next surge pushed the edge back to 24-19 before UWM fought off the first three set-points. But, a kill from Chauntay Mickens wrapped things up for the Huskies.
The Panthers wasted little time in bouncing back in the second set. UWM took the lead for good at 8-7 on a Sueppel kill and quickly pushed the edge to 12-8 on a kill by Schmitting. An ace by Samantha Trawitzke gave the Panthers a 17-10 advantage and UCONN would never get closer than five points the rest of the way. A kill by Peters pushed the Panthers to set-point before a kill by Schmitting officially evened up the match.
Milwaukee used a stunning comeback to claim the third set. In fact, the Panthers trailed 15-7, 20-10 and still 21-13 before rallying. UWM countered that final deficit with a run of seven-straight to pull within 21-20 and then tied the set at 22 on a UCONN error. The Panthers then pushed ahead to a 24-23 lead on a Kerri Schuh kill only to see the Huskies score the next two for a 25-24 advantage. But, UWM made a final surge to claim a 2-1 lead in the match. A kill by Schuh fought off set-point, with a UCONN error followed by a kill from Mary Beth O'Brien wrapping things up.
UCONN battled back to even the match by winning the fourth set. The Huskies again started quickly, building a 10-6 lead. But the Panthers tied the set at 11 and eventually went up 16-13 on a block by Schuh and Sueppel. The Huskies scored the next four points to reclaim the advantage and the Panthers would never lead again. UWM did tie the set at 20 but UCONN scored five of the next six points to extend the match.
UWM wasn't going to let this one slip away, though, as the Panthers scored 11 of the first 14 points of the fifth set to seal the win.
"Our game plan was to spread around our offense and we really accomplished that," Johnson said. "Natalie played very well and then a number of other people picked us up. Kerri (Schuh) and Mary Beth (O'Brien) really had some key kills and key times."
UWM is now finished with early-season tournament action and will play three singles matches this week. The busy slate starts Tuesday night as the Panthers return to the Klotsche Center to host Northern Illinois.