The Wisconsin volleyball team has had its share of ups and downs this season. The Badgers are 16-13 overall and sport a 4-12 record in the Big Ten.
But the Badgers will look to send off its three seniors – Alexis Mitchell, Mary Ording and Bailey Reshel – with victories this weekend, when the three seniors will be honored for Senior Day at the Field House.
The Badgers are looking to improve upon a string of rough matches last weekend in which they fell to Michigan and Michigan State by scores of 3-0. Those losses took UW’s skid to five straight, the longest such streak of the season.
“I thought there were some times when we were doing some good things,” head coach Pete Waite said. “But the challenge is just to stay in it until the end and finish off. We got to about 20 points each time, but we need to close the door and fight even harder to finish.”
The Badgers first face Iowa (10-19, 2-14 Big Ten) Friday night. The Hawkeyes have lost 10 straight matches, including eight in a row by a score of 3-0.
Wisconsin has controlled the all-time series with Iowa, especially in Madison, where the Badgers are 23-9 all-time against the Hawkeyes. UW won the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season, a hard-fought 3-2 win.
Iowa is led by sophomore outside hitter Alex Lovell, who leads the team with 3.17 kills per set, and junior outside hitter Rachael Bedell also adds 3.01 kills per set. Junior setter Nikki Dailey leads the team in assists (9.39 per set) and also in service aces (24).
Iowa is the only unranked opponent left on the schedule for Wisconsin, making it crucial for the Badgers to earn the win Friday.
“I think it’s important to beat them, not only for momentum, but for ourselves,” senior middle blocker Alexis Mitchell said. “It’s more important to beat a team we know we can beat, and beat them on our home court.”
Sunday’s match will be a much tougher test for the Badgers, as ninth-ranked Nebraska comes to Madison.
The Cornhuskers (20-5, 12-4) have won two consecutive matches after dropping two in a row to Michigan and Michigan State. Earlier this season, Nebraska dominated the Badgers in Lincoln by a score of 3-0.
Nebraska is led by senior outside hitter Gina Mancuso, who leads the team with 3.44 kills per set and service aces with 28. Senior outside hitter Hannah Werth also adds 2.89 kills per set and is tops on the team with 3.28 digs per set.
Senior setter Lauren Cook averages 10.95 assists per set while ranking second on the team with 2.89 digs per set.
Waite said he is hoping for a stronger effort from his team its second time out against one of the Big Ten’s top squads.
“We need to have a more balanced attack,” Waite said. “We had a couple people get good numbers, and a couple others didn’t. If we ball handle well and run the offense correctly, then we’ll balance the attack a little better and make it tougher for them.”
Friday night will be Senior Night as the Badgers conclude their final home weekend series of the season (UW’s final home match comes against Minnesota Wednesday night).
Many of the players’ families will be in attendance, something Mitchell said will add to the atmosphere.
“It’s not our last match here so that will help [with emotions],” Mitchell said. “But with having our families here, and the fact that they’re recognizing us will make it pretty emotional.”