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It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a thundering kill by one of the Wisconsin women’s volleyball team’s many talented hitters. However, those offensive moments begin with solid passing, digging and serve receiving from the Badger defense.Big Ten defensive leader, sophomore Annemarie Hickey, anchored her back row defense for Wisconsin in its match against the Minnesota Gophers on Wednesday evening. The Badgers got off to a strong start, winning the first set 25-22. Wisconsin lost momentum and fell in the following two sets but bounced back to take the fourth. In a final set to 15, Wisconsin was unable to hold off No. 14 Minnesota and lost 15-10.Hickey finished the night with 29 digs, and she currently leads the Big Ten, averaging 4.78 digs per set.“I just try to keep the balls off the ground,” Hickey said. “Also, on the easy balls, its just hitting them right to target so [senior Janelle Gabrielsen] and [freshman Courtney Thomas] can set our middles, which was really key for us.”Hickey and the Badgers were up against one of the top outside hitters in the Big Ten, sophomore Ashley Wittman, who leads the Gophers with 4.72 kills per set, yet they managed to outblock Minnesota 7-4.“I think our blockers did a great job,” Hickey said. “They took a lot of risks. … They do a really good job of communicating to me. Communicating with me really helped in the back row as well.”Hickey also stands out with her powerful jump serve. She leads the team in service aces this season with 24 and added three more to her total on Wednesday. One came in the second game when she powered a deep ball over to opposing libero, senior Jessica Granquist, who was unable to return it. Hickey forced two more service receive errors from Granquist and senior Hailey Cowles in the fourth set to fuel the Badger’s comeback.Hickey began her four-serve run late in the fourth set when a service error from Minnesota sophomore Steffi Sooter gave Wisconsin the lead and the ball. A kill from Thomas and back-to-back aces for Hickey brought the score to 22-19.Hickey served again, setting the stage for another Thomas kill. One more serve from the Badger’s libero resulted in a Gopher kill from Cowles, ending the run at 23-20. After a timeout taken by the home team, Dominique Thompson crushed a set up from Gabrielson in the middle.Chapman and Thompson earned the set point together by blocking sophomore Tori Dixon, resulting in a 25-21 victory.“They are all gaining so much experience on the court right now, and that’s phenomenal,” head coach Pete Waite said. “[Hickey’s] game is so much more solid than last year; she is so much stronger.”Another notable defensive effort came from the freshman outside hitter Ellen Chapman. Chapman consistently succeeds at the net and completely the match against the Gophers with a team high 13 kills. On the defensive end, Chapman earned a new career high of 11 digs and received the second highest amount of serves at 25, behind Hickey’s 40.“I think whenever I play back row, I just have to step it up because I’m given the chance to,” Chapman said. “I think that going for every ball is important and just calming myself before the serve because they always serve to me.”“I think she did a great job. She had a career high 11 digs, and some were not easy balls to pop up,” Waite said of Chapman’s defensive performance.Other career highs for the night came from Thompson with a career high seven blocks and Thomas with a new personal best of 22 digs. Wisconsin kept the errors low, but Chapman and the Badgers feel that cleaning up the little things is the difference between a win and a loss.“Sometimes on my part, I know I can get a dig then I miss it. I feel like if we get those plays in order then we can definitely beat any team when we are down by one or two like this game,” Chapman said.