The Wisconsin Badgers (14-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) head back out on the road again as they prepare to face two more ranked teams, No. 14 Ohio State (14-2, 2-2) on Friday at 6 p.m. and No. 4 Penn State (12-3, 3-1) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Badgers have not won at University Park in Pennsylvania since 2002.
Wisconsin ended its eight-match winning streak after falling to Nebraska last week. The Badgers are looking to pick themselves back up and bring their A-game this weekend.
After a long week of practice, the players feel ready to take on their opponents.
Lauren Carlini, freshman setter, believes the two teams are very similar in their playing strategy.
“We don’t really need to worry about changing the game plans too much,” Carlini said.
However, both Ohio State and Penn State pose threats to Wisconsin as visitors.
Ohio State’s setter leads the Big Ten with 11.75 assists per set, whereas Wisconsin’s Carlini sits third with 10.60 assists per set. Carlini is willing to accept this challenge.
“I want to beat [her] now, I want to be first!” Carlini joked. “I just like giving my hitters the best chance at getting a kill every time and my mentality is if they don’t get a kill every time, that’s my fault. I think just having that competitive attitude and giving hitters the best change is always helpful to the team.”
Ohio State also averages 14.05 kills-per-set with its outside hitter stealing 5.13 kills per set.
“She’s good. Really good.” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We are going to need to defend her, at the end of the night you don’t want her hitting 400 against you, hitting a buck fifty would feel better. That’s one thing we have to figure out this week, how to handle her and some of the other studs.”
Additionally, Penn State leads the Big Ten with a .329 attack percentage and 13.86 kills-per-set. Penn State also has 1.57 service aces-per-set average, ranking the Nittany Lions second in the conference. Senior Annemarie Hickey feels confident the back row can hold off the strong kills.
“I mean we have a really good, scrappy defensive team. Taylor [Murphy] and Deme [Morales] have been doing well in the back row, Lauren has a really good defensive mind, especially as a setter, she is always wanting to go for the ball and that really helps us.”
Sheffield is looking at this weekend as a time to show the team’s improvements and fix the mistakes seen during last week’s game against Nebraska.
“Our transition offense wasn’t very good and that was a major part of us not being able to win [against Nebraska]. That’s the beauty of the teams that we are playing. They will expose your weaknesses; it is up to you to go and work on those.”
So far this season the Badgers have won 14 matches with both a balanced offensive attack and a tough defense. They have won six straight matches to open the year and won eight to wrap up the non-conference season. Such a strong start is putting them back on the map in the Big Ten.
Just last week Wisconsin moved up to 19th in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches poll released Oct. 7, the highest the team has been ranked since 2008.
Entering the weekend, the Badgers know what they are up against but feel confident in their ability as a team to fight hard in both matches.
Hickey hopes this will help the mentality of the players coming into the weekend.
“We are proving that we can hang with all these Big Ten teams and I think believing that we can win and we can beat these top 10 teams, ranked teams … This weekend we are playing all out, giving all our efforts. We always say that winners are believers and those are things we hope to see this weekend.”