After dropping one spot to 15th in the USA Today/Coaches’ Poll, the UW volleyball team will try to improve upon its 2-2 Big Ten record this weekend as it travels to Ohio State and Indiana.
The 24th-ranked Buckeyes will provide a strong challenge for the Badgers, who are off to their worst Big Ten start since 1995.
For the second straight weekend, the Badgers will be playing against the current Big Ten player of the week, Ohio State outside hitter Stacey Gordon. Although the Buckeyes lost both of their matches last weekend, falling to 0-4 in Big Ten play, Gordon averaged 6.88 kills and 3.50 digs per game.
The Buckeyes will be led by Gordon, who is averaging 6.10 kills per game, senior middle blocker Suzie Stiling who is averaging 2.53 kills per game and Stephanie Higgins, who leads the team with 0.88 blocks per game.
The loss of all-Big Ten setter Katie Virtue to a broken hand, coupled with a host of other injuries, has left the preseason Big Ten-favorite Buckeyes looking up from the bottom of the conference.
The Buckeyes have still managed to average 1.63 aces, 13.37 digs and 1.92 blocks per game this season.
The Badgers will be led into the match by senior tri-captain Erin Byrd, who will attempt to record her sixth-straight double-double match of the season. Last weekend, Byrd recorded 19 kills and 20 digs in the loss to Minnesota, followed by an 11-kill, 11-dig performance in the victory over Iowa.
The Badgers enter the match behind Lori Rittenhouse’s team-leading 3.24 per kills per game, Morgan Shields’ average 13.98 assists per game and Beth Haberli’s team-leading 3.30 digs per game.
This weekend will be the road debut of the Badgers’ new starting line-up featuring freshman middle blocker Sheila Shaw.
Shaw came into the starting lineup last weekend and has provided the enthusiasm and the level of play deserving of a starting role.
The Badgers hope to enter their match Saturday against Indiana with the possibility of completing their first Big Ten weekend sweep of the season.
“The seniors and leaders on this team need to be consistent so that the younger players can feed off us,” Byrd said.
Consistency is one thing the Badgers have lacked this Big Ten season, with losses against second-place Minnesota (4-0) and seventh-place Illinois (2-2).
Indiana will enter the weekend on a three-game losing streak and will try to improve upon its 1-3 Big Ten record.
Led by outside hitter Christina Archibald in kills (4.63/game), digs (2.52/game) and aces (20), the Hoosiers offer a balanced attack by a youthful team of sophomores and juniors.
The Hoosiers have a trifecta of other players who all average over 3.00 kills per game. Junior middle blocker Melissa Brewer (3.55/game), sophomore middle blocker Katie Pollom (3.25/game) and junior outside hitter Nikki Hill (3.08/game) provide the team with a balanced offense that can be hard to defend. The other offensive standout is sophomore Vicki Zimmerman, who averages 13.72 assists per game.
The Badgers will enter their match against Indiana on a 12-match winning streak against the Hoosiers, and hope to conclude the weekend with the lucky number 13.