Hoping to avoid another disappointing loss after a momentous victory, the Wisconsin volleyball team will play host to Big Ten foes Indiana and Ohio State this weekend.
After a huge victory against No. 9 Penn State, the Badgers will be looking to carry that momentum over into this weekend’s contests and the second half of the Big Ten season.
“It’s been like going to Great America; it’s been a lot of highs, a lot of lows; it’s been topsy-turvy, but it’s been a thrill a minute,” head coach Pete Waite said. “The win against Penn State hopefully got us in the right direction and gave our team a lot of confidence going into this week and the second half of Big Ten play.”
The Badgers will be led into the weekend by the outstanding play of senior tri-captain Erin Byrd. Byrd leads the team with 4.15 kills and 3.00 digs per game.
The last two weekends, she has recorded career highs in kills, with 29 against Michigan State, and digs, with 24 against Penn State.
Byrd is joined on the front line of attack by sophomore Jill Odenthal, who is contributing 3.16 kills per game, and fifth-year senior Lori Rittenhouse, who is averaging 3.06 kills per game.
The Badger offense is set by junior Morgan Shields, who is among the nation’s top performers, averaging 14.08 assists and 0.70 aces per game.
The Badgers’ starting lineup is once again in question this weekend after the stellar play of redshirt freshman Aubrey Meierotto in the victory against Penn State. Meierotto had a career-high 18 kills after coming off the bench for outside hitter Jill Odenthal.
“Meierotto came [in] and did a great job off the bench,” Waite said. “We hadn’t played her all year, but she was ready to go.”
The Indiana Hoosiers will arrive at the Field House Friday hoping to become just the second team to beat the Badgers (8-1) at home this season.
Sophomore outside hitter Christina Archibald, who is averaging 4.40 kills per game, leads IU. Archibald was one of four Hoosiers who recorded double-figure kill totals in the Hoosiers’ victory against the Badgers (26-30, 30-26, 29-31, 30-26, 11-15) Oct. 12.
She is joined on the offensive attack by junior middle blocker Melissa Brewer, who averages 3.69 kills per game, and Katie Pollorn, who averages 3.43 kills per game. The Hoosier starters show their balanced blend of play, as Brewer and Pollorn both average more than 1.00 blocks per game.
“Indiana took it to us at their place, and that’s the best Indiana team I’ve seen in four or five years,” Waite said.
A Badger victory against Indiana would be the 100th victory for Coach Waite at the University of Wisconsin. Waite is 99-22 in his four years as the Wisconsin head coach after leaving the University of Northern Illinois as the all-time winningest coach in school history.
“I am really thinking about the lineup in the next few days and trying to get that win in the Big Ten, because it’s so competitive,” Waite said about his accomplishments. “I’m thrilled about it; the time has flown, but I still look to this weekend to try to get a couple more wins.”
The Badgers’ second match of the weekend will be against preseason Big Ten favorite Ohio State. The Buckeyes are led by last year’s freshman of the year, Stacey Gordon, who leads the team in kills, with 5.95 per game; digs, with 3.57 kills per game; and serving aces, with 26 per game.
Seniors Suzie Stiling, who averages 2.84 kills per game, and Katie Virtue, who averages 13.44 assists per game, round out the Buckeyes’ offensive attack.
“Ohio State is back healthy now after their setter was injured, and we saw her back for the first time on the court when we were at their place, so she was a little out of it as far as being in sync with her team,” Waite said.
“You’ve still got Stacey Gordon on Ohio State who was last year’s freshman of the year nationally, and she’s taking sometimes 60 swings a match. She’s an unbelievable player. People who haven’t seen her … they should come out and see that match, and hopefully we’ll get two wins this weekend.”