The No. 6 University of Wisconsin women’s volleyball team (22-6, 15-5 Big Ten) is preparing to take on UW-Green Bay Phoenix (20-10, 13-3 Horizon) Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament.
With a win, the Badgers would take on the winner of the Pepperdine-Northern Iowa matchup, which will also take place Thursday night.
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The Badgers finished the regular season on a six-game win streak, including a win against the No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions this past Saturday night. This stretch included a season-high 16 set win streak thanks to a strong team effort led by their lone senior Tionna Williams.
Despite the winning streak and the Badgers’ high rankings, Coach Kelly Sheffield cautioned the team during practice Tuesday night to not let that go to their heads, emphasizing that “the rankings have zero impact.”
Going into the tournament, team leader Madison Duello said the Badgers are a “big offensive threat with a lot of options.”
The overall goal, of course, is to win a national championship, middle blocker Dana Rettke added.
“… the offense and defense get better and better every week,” Rettke said.
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Green Bay also had successful year overall, led by sophomore Taylor Wolf, who finished the season with a team-high 508 kills. Other key contributors for the Phoenix include Ashley Sledge (111 blocks, .303 hitting percentage) and Alexandra Zakutney (260 kills).
In the other Thursday night match, Pepperdine (21-8, 14-4 WCC) takes on UNI (24-9, 16-2 MVC) as the two teams vie for a spot in the second round.
Pepperdine has been led by Shannon Scully (331 kills, 39 blocks) and Alli O’Harra (113 blocks), while UNI’s key performers have been Piper Thomas (.349 hitting percentage, 97 blocks) and Karlie Taylor (540 kills.)
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If the Badgers are able to carry the confidence and success they were able to find at the end of the season, they might just be able to bring a National Championship to Madison for the first time ever.
All three matches will take place Thursday and Friday at the UW Field House. UNI-Pepperdine will take place at 5 p.m. Thursday, immediately followed by UW-Green Bay-UW-Madison at 7:30 p.m. The winners of these matches will take on each other Friday night at 7 p.m. The match against Green Bay can be listened to on 100.9 FM.
“We are playing our best volleyball here at the end of the year,” Sheffield said. “[But the team] must focus on what’s in front of them, what they can control.”