MADISON, Wis. — Through much of the first two sets Friday, you wondered if Nebraska senior Kelsey Robinson was even on the floor.
But the outside hitter introduced herself in the final two sets in an impressive road win for the 11th-ranked Huskers.
Robinson had 16 of her match-high 21 kills in Games 3 and 4 to propel NU to an 18-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-19 win at No. 16 Wisconsin in front of 5,307 at the UW Fieldhouse.
With Nebraska (18-4, 11-2 Big Ten) struggling to get its middle attack going and the Huskers slow to find answers to stop Wisconsin's offense, the Huskers' left sides took over the match with both Robinson and freshman Kadie Rolfzen compiling double doubles.
Robinson added 13 digs and hit .439 to lead all players. Rolfzen also had an efficient night with 19 kills, hitting .341, and tied a career high with 17 recoveries to lead NU to its fifth straight win and 17 victories in 18 meetings with Wisconsin (18-7, 7-6).
Freshman libero Justine Wong-Orantes returned to the lineup after not playing last weekend versus Northwestern and had 14 digs as Nebraska outdug the Badgers, the Big Ten's leader in digs, 63-62.
“I think our floor defense is what won it for us,” Nebraska coach John Cook said in a postmatch radio interview. “Those guys dug a lot of shots tonight.
“(Kadie) dug a lot of shots. Mary (Pollmiller) made some great digs. Justine had a good night digging. Robinson is always good.”
The Huskers rallied for the win after another ugly start on the road. Wisconsin raced to a 7-1 lead in the opener and hit .306 to take Game 1 easily paced by five kills from Ellen Chapman.
NU hit .152 in the first set and struggled to get in system with some shaky passing.
“We were not good in Game 1. That might've been the worst game we played all year,” Cook said. “But they righted the ship, bailed the water out.”
In Game 2, Nebraska trailed 18-17 before winning eight of the final 10 rallies to knot the match 1-1. Wisconsin came back to earth, hitting .000 in Game 2 thanks to five Husker blocks.
But after hitting .145 through two sets, Nebraska's offense came to life after the intermission. It's no coincidence the revival matched up with Robinson heating up. After five kills through the first two sets, the Big Ten's top attacker had 10 kills in Game 3 alone, and Rolfzen had NU's final three kills to help the Huskers prevail after the set was tied 21-21.
Robinson added six more kills and Rolfzen had five in Game 4, and Nebraska took control with a 4-0 run to lead 12-7. The Huskers' lead never dropped below four points the rest of the match.
Nebraska hit a combined .342 in the third and fourth sets to finish .248 for the match.
Chapman and Courtney Thomas each had 15 kills to lead the Badgers.
The victory keeps NU in second place in the Big Ten, one game behind Penn State, going into Sunday's 3:30 p.m. match at No. 9 Minnesota.
“This is a great win,” Cook said. “(Wisconsin) is right in the upper half of the Big Ten. They were at home and had a huge crowd tonight. We beat them in five at our place and every game was deuce sets except the fifth.”
Nebraska (18-4, 11-2 Big Ten) .......................................... 18 25 25 25
At Wisconsin (18-7, 7-6) .......................................... 25 20 23 19
Nebraska (kills-aces-blocks): Robinson 23-1-2, K. Rolfzen 19-0-4, A. Rolfzen 8-0-3, Haggerty 4-0-0, Hall 2-0-8, Pollmiller 1-1-2, Keil 1-0-2, Wong-Orantes 0-1-0.
UW: Chapman 15-0-1, Morales 15-0-0, Thomas 9-1-4, Thompson 8-0-3, Nelson 6-0-3, Carlini 3-1-1, Kvas 0-1-0.
Set assists: UW 50 (Carlini 42), NU 55 (Pollmiller 50).
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Video: Recap of Nebraska's win: