The second half of the Big Ten season didn’t go quite as planned for the women’s volleyball team. The Badgers were once seen at the top of the conference and have even wrestled for a hold on the second place spot. As the season draws to a close, the Badgers find themselves in the number four spot in the conference with a record of 11-7 and 19-10 overall.
Last weekend the Badgers faced the Buckeyes of Ohio State, and the number one team in the conference, the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Ohio State proved to not be too much of a challenge for the Badgers, as they handled them easily in three games 30-25, 30-25, 30-27. This victory marked the end of a three-match losing streak for the Badgers.
Penn State, who had lost to the Badgers earlier in the season at the Field House, found the Badgers on their court and handled them in three games 30-24, 30-23, 30-21. Lisa Zukowski dominated the offense for the Badgers, recording a season high 19 kills.
“They ran a very good offense,” head coach Pete Waite said. “We did not serve very strongly, which allowed them to run all three options. They were taking advantage of our smaller block and, at the end of the night, they are still going to be taller than we are.”
This Thanksgiving weekend, the Badgers will put the past losses behind them as they face Indiana and Purdue in their last home matches. The last time the Badgers met these two teams, they came away with victories.
Indiana, with a record of 12-17 overall and 5-13 in the Big Ten, is led by senior middle blocker Katie Pollum. Last weekend, with a victory over Northwestern, she had a match-high 16 kills for a .467 hitting percentage and also added 4 block assists. Another Hoosier to watch out for is junior outside hitter Christina Archibald, who added 13 kills and reached the 10-kill plateau in 45 of the last 46 matches she has participated in. The Hoosiers will look to continue their momentum against the Badgers Friday night.
Saturday night the Badgers will face the Purdue Boilermakers, who have a record of 13-16 overall and 6-12 in the Big Ten. If the Badgers beat Purdue, it will mark the sixteenth straight victory over the Boilermakers. Purdue out-blocked Wisconsin in their last meeting 11 to 8, and it was the first time in the season the Boilermakers out-blocked a team and still lost the match. The Badgers hope to prove that part of their game when these two teams meet.
Last weekend Purdue played Illinois and hung with them for four games but couldn’t pull of the victory. The front row for Purdue stands at about the same height as the Badgers’, with the average height being about 6-foot-1. Junior middle hitter Kim McConaha and red shirt sophomore Leah Wischmeier both recorded 12 kills and five defense digs. The libero position, held by Daren Poe, is strong for the Boilermakers. Poe had 16 defense kills versus the Fighting Illini. The Badgers will look to finish strong on all hits, and on defense they will try to keep the Boilermakers’ hits off the ground.
“Right now, we need to regroup and get two wins at home against Indiana and Purdue,” Waite said. “It will be good to play in the Field House and finish strong in the Big Ten. We will need that to give us some momentum going into the NCAA tournament.”
After this weekend the Badgers will head into the brackets for the 2003 NCAA Volleyball Championships, and they hope to make their eighth consecutive appearance in the post-season tournament and their 12th appearance overall.