As they travel on the road to Iowa and Minnesota this weekend, the Wisconsin volleyball team will try to bounce back and shake off last weekend's disappointing 3-1 loss to Purdue.
Wisconsin had moved into sole possession of second place in the Big Ten with the win over Illinois. However, dropping to the Boilermakers Saturday created a three-way tie for second with Purdue and Minnesota.
While securing second place would have been ideal, redshirt freshman Audra Jeffers would rather put the first Purdue loss behind and look forward to the remaining three weeks of the regular season.
"To forget about the loss we've been coming in every day at practice and just playing really hard," Jeffers said. "Coach has set up some drills to really help us work on the things that we need to work on. We've been doing a really good job in practice."
With only six games before the NCAA tournament, the stretch run of the season will be crucial for the team to finish off strong, and for that reason head coach Pete Waite has adjusted the practice schedule this week.
"It's that point in the season with three weekends left where you want to make a final surge and make a strong surge going into the NCAA selections so we're heading into the weekend hoping we're going to do that," Waite said.
"We'll shorten some practices; if we feel they need a day off, we'll take a day off. Sometimes, a day off is for their bodies. Some people, whether it's backs, knees, or shoulders, they just need some time away … all in all, a day off usually helps a lot and they come back fresh and ready to go," he added.
The Badgers' key match this weekend will be against the No. 17 Minnesota Golden Gophers. The last time the two teams met in the infamous Border Battle, Wisconsin pulled out a thrilling 3-2 win at the Fieldhouse.
Since then, however, the Gophers have shuffled their lineup a little and are currently on a four-game winning streak.
Junior All-American Kelly Bowman, who averages 8.48 assists and 2.05 kills per game, leads Minnesota and is a versatile threat according to Audra Jeffers.
"Minnesota, they're always good," Jeffers said. "They've got a great setter who hits, she plays all the way around, she's great and we know that. She's going to throw a lot at us."
Another constant for Minnesota is fellow All-American, libero Paula Gentil, who leads the Big Ten with 5.69 digs and 0.52 service aces per game.
Although Minnesota will be a crucial match for Wisconsin, the Badgers will also have another potent match scheduled first against Iowa Friday.
Though the Hawkeyes stand at eighth place in the Big Ten with a 4-10 record, the Badgers have preached all season how tough the Big Ten can be.
The last three weekends have been a testament to that, as Wisconsin has split every weekend, losing to Michigan, Penn State, and Purdue.
"That's the thing with the Big Ten, even a team that you could've beat before pretty easily, you never know if they can make improvements throughout the year and just come in and play completely different," Jeffers said. "Every night is a struggle so you got to just keep working hard."
Jeffers has been on a hot streak lately, recording double-figure kills in the past nine matches. However, she is hoping to help the team get on a hot streak itself and finish the season off strong.
"If we get momentum in these next three matches, I think it'll really help for the NCAA tournament so I think that's what we're hoping for," Jeffers said. "Just improve with every match and get ready for the tournament."