Last season, the Wisconsin volleyball team faced consecutive losses just once during their impressive 25-7 campaign. This year, the No. 13 Badgers (4-4) stumbled into two such instances in just their first eight games.
Their non-conference schedule was tumultuous with their four losses coming to teams currently ranked in the top 20 of the AVCA Coaches poll.
Unfortunately, the Badgers must stabilize their play if they are to be successful during their equally rigorous Big Ten conference schedule. Friday, Wisconsin faces the No. 21 Purdue Boilermakers (8-1) at the UW Fieldhouse as they seek to clean up defensive miscues and turn their season around.
Wisconsin star middle blocker Dana Rettke spoke on their struggles so far this year and what needs tweaking.
“I think it just comes down to a lot of communication and defense,” Rettke said. “I think that teams are playing their best against us, and that’s exactly what we want.”
Defensive struggles prevailed against high-powered offenses such as Baylor and Washington. The Badgers currently have the worst opponent hitting percentage in the Big Ten and one of the worst in the country as they are ahead of only eight total teams nationally.
Against Washington, the Badgers allowed a .457 hitting percentage to the Huskies — the highest mark in Head Coach Kelly Sheffield’s tenure at the University of Wisconsin.
Volleyball: Wisconsin faces challenging home and home against WashingtonNumber 9 ranked Wisconsin (4-2) boasts one of the greatest home environments in NCAA volleyball. The Badger faithful pack the Read…
Purdue provides another offensive challenge with the third best hitting percentage in the Big Ten. They also lead the Big Ten in blocking with 3.04 blocks per set which is the fifth-highest mark in the county.
“They’re well-coached and well-trained,” Sheffield said. “Defensively, they’re really really good. It’s hard to score on them.”
The trio of Grace Cleveland, Caitlyn Newton and Blake Mohler account for the bulk of their high kill and block totals.
The statistics of Purdue should be understood in context. Up to this point, they have faced a relatively light schedule despite having a short list of ranked opponents in their wake.
Wisconsin will look to get outside hitters Grace Loberg and Molly Haggerty engaged quickly to complement their towering inside pair of Rettke and redshirt sophomore Danielle Hart.
Varied looks at the net and a plethora of ball placements will be key against a Boilermaker defense that blocks and digs with such efficiency.
Last season, the Badgers captured both contests against the Boilermakers including a clean sweep in West Lafayette. But Sheffield isn’t taking Purdue lightly.
Volleyball: Badgers close spring slate with sweep over PurdueThe University of Wisconsin volleyball team scheduled three high-quality opponents for their spring schedule — dropping only one set in Read…
“They’re [Purdue] a hard-nosed tough group, and usually when they play each other, it’s a slobberknocker,” Sheffield said.
Purdue will certainly provide a tough test for a Badger team that hasn’t performed to the best of its capabilities up to this point in the season. Look for them to put up a fight as they seek to bounce back and revamp their season.