The No. 3 University of Wisconsin volleyball team returns to action this weekend two wins away from earning a place in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.
But standing in their way is a feisty Ohio State University team looking to continue their Cinderella story followed by a potential matchup with either No. 6 Stanford University or Florida State team on a Cinderella run of their own.
In the round of 16 game Friday, UW takes on an opponent the Badgers are quite familiar with when they play fellow Big Ten member Ohio State. The two teams represent two of the six Big Ten teams left in the tournament.
The Buckeyes come into the match hot off their first two wins in the tourney, a 3-0 sweep over Missouri State University and a 3-2 upset over No. 14 Kansas State University.
Ohio State will lean on junior outside hitter Luisa Schirmer for their offensive production. Schirmer is coming off a performance in her team’s win over Kansas State in which she recorded 21 kills on 52 attempts. Schirmer will be on the receiving end of sets from sophomore setter Taylor Hughes. Taylor Sandbothe, the senior middle blocker and the sole all-conference team member from the Buckeyes, will set the defense up front.
When the Buckeyes are attacking, the Badgers will continue to put their defense in the hands of libero Kelli Bates and middle blocker Haleigh Nelson, who have both been big reasons why the Badgers have yet to drop a set through the first two rounds. Senior Lauren Carlini will attempt to get her hitters going, including freshman outside Molly Haggerty.
These two teams have met twice this season, the first of which was in Madison when Wisconsin won in three sets 25-16, 25-19, and 25-17. In the end, what undid the Buckeyes was their 25 unforced errors in comparison to eight from the Badgers.
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Similar to their first match, Wisconsin won their second head-to-head appearance when they swept Ohio State in Columbus 25-19, 26-24 and 25-22. The closer sets show the growth of Ohio State as a team, making for an intriguing Friday afternoon of volleyball this weekend at the UW Field House.
The winner between Ohio State and Wisconsin will play again on Saturday against the winner of Florida State and Stanford. Florida State looks to continue their improbable post season after beating in-state rival No. 11 University of Florida, who knocked Wisconsin out of the 2015 tournament last year. Stanford, meanwhile, has yet to lose a set and will look to continue their post season as the favorites to upset Wisconsin and steal a NCAA Championship Semifinals appearance.