The sixth-ranked UW volleyball will travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern Wednesday night.
Wisconsin heads into the weeknight game with momentum and confidence after overcoming conference foes Penn State and Ohio State this past weekend. The Badgers are now the sole possessor of the Big Ten lead, and look ahead to the task of defending their title.
Northwestern began its season strong, but has had trouble defeating ranked opponents. The Wildcats also played Penn State and Ohio State this past weekend, losing both matches. Northwestern now holds a 3-3 conference record, tied with Michigan State for fourth place.
This match will be the third nationally ranked opponent Northwestern has faced in the past six days, and they will be looking to hand the Badgers their first conference loss of the season.
UW head coach Pete Waite expressed confidence in his team’s ability to focus on the game, even though it means a weeknight road trip.
“It’s a Big Ten match still, and we know what is on the line,” Waite said. “[The team] knows that we are in great position, and we want to stay there.”
Northwestern will pose a threat to Wisconsin’s hitting game. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten in blocking with a 3.20 blocks per game average.
They also have the conference leader in individual blocks in sophomore Erica Lange, and the third-ranked blocker junior Sarah Ballog.
However, Wisconsin has many weapons of its own that should help to counter Northwestern’s strong front line.
UW senior setter Lizzy Fitzgerald was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday after her amazing all-around performance against Penn State and Ohio State.
After Friday night’s Penn State game, coach Waite was quick to praise Fitzgerald for helping his team dominate at the net.
“Lizzy just set a great game,” Waite said. “She dispersed the ball very well; it was really hard for the Penn State blockers to set up on anyone and get into a good rhythm.”
Wisconsin will look again to Fitzgerald for her leadership and outstanding play, since keeping Northwestern’s blockers out of rhythm will be a key component to the UW game plan.
Conference Statistical Leaders:
Aside from owning the best team record in the Big Ten, the UW volleyball team leads the conference in many other statistical areas.
Wisconsin has the most kills in the conference (915 total, 17.94 a game) and the most assists (818 total, 16.04 a game).
UW is also the team leader in digs with 15.57 a game. Against Penn State last Friday night the Badgers recorded 20 more digs than the Nittany Lions, a statistic that no doubt aided in Wisconsin’s domination of the game.
Badger senior MB Sherisa Livingston has the most recorded kills than any other player in the conference with 254; her closest rival in the category trails her by 27.
Lizzy Fitzgerald is the conference leader in assists, averaging 14.41 a game. She has maintained the top spot in this category all season.
Wednesday’s game against UW will hold added importance to Northwestern junior Kelli Meyer. The 6-foot-1 setter hails from Madison and attended Edgewood High School.
At Edgewood Meyer was a four-year letterwinner in volleyball and basketball as well as a two-year letterwinner in track.
Meyer earned all-city honors for blocking her junior year at Edgewood, as well as all-city honors as a hitter and overall player her senior year.
Meyer was twice named to Wisconsin’s all-state volleyball team. She has led Northwestern in assists the past two seasons and was named an academic all-Big Ten athlete last season.