The No. 10 University of Wisconsin volleyball team travels to Indiana and Purdue this weekend in their first of two back to back weekends of matches on the road. Last weekend, the badgers hosted Ohio State and Maryland in the Field House.
Despite taking a 2-0 lead against Ohio State last Friday night, the Badgers ultimately fell in five sets to the Buckeyes. This has been a common theme this year. Last Friday was the fourth time the Badgers had matches that went to the fifth set, all of which they have lost.
While showing glimpses of greatness, the Badgers play has been inconsistent. Once they dig themselves into a hole in an individual set or in a match, they have had difficulties coming back and getting wins. This is what separates them from the most elite teams in the country.
On Saturday night, they were able to rally from their previous night’s loss and defeat Maryland three sets to one. For the first time ever, the Terps stole a set from the badgers. After handily defeating Maryland in the first set, the Badgers dropped the second.
They were, however, able to take the third and fourth thanks to the much improved play of senior outside hitter Lauryn Gillis, who came back after missing a few weeks early in the season because of an ankle injury.
Since returning, she has matches where she has helped the team and matches that could have given head coach Kelly Sheffield a reason to bench her and give someone else her starting spot. Against Maryland, she recorded 17 kills.
Earlier in the season, the Badgers hosted Indiana and beat the Hoosiers in the three seats in a set where both teams hit well. Wisconsin got the win by playing in a business fashion and doing what they needed to do to get the job done. Right now, Indiana’s greatest strength is their serving.
They currently rank fourth in the Big Ten with 1.40 aces per set. On offense, they are lead by redshirt sophomore Kendall Beerman. She adds 3.21 kills per set. For the Badgers to come away with the win, they will need to pass well off the serve and contain Beerman.
When they pass well they are able to get their middle blockers Dana Rettke and Tionna Williams. Both players have been indispensible for the badgers this season.
No. 21 Purdue is currently second in the Big Ten in hitting percentage. They are hitting .319 as a team. They are led by senior outside hitter Danielle Cuttino with 4.09 kills a set. Outside hitters Sherridan Atkinson adds 3.38 kills per set while Azariah Stahl adds 2.46 kills per set.
This means that Purdue is dangerous, even if Wisconsin is able to get them out of system. Their setter Ashley Evans is doing a good job putting her hitters in positions to score. Purdue is a solid team on defense as well.
As a team, they average 12.79 digs per set. Wisconsin will need to focus on tooling balls off of Purdue’s block. Wisconsin setter Sydney Hilley will also need to fool Purdue’s block enough so her hitters have a larger seam to hit through.
There are only six regular season conference games remaining, and the badgers currently sit at 7-7 in the conference. To improve their RPI, a factor that weighs heavily in the eyes of the selection committee, Wisconsin will want to come away with two wins this weekend.