The No. 5 Wisconsin volleyball team (19-5, 15-1 Big Ten) faces the Iowa Hawkeyes and the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers to close out a successful Big Ten run at home.
The Hawkeyes (9-18, 3-13) enter the University of Wisconsin Field House on Senior Night on the heels of a six-game losing streak. Five of those six losses came against ranked opponents.
Their schedule won’t get easier as they face back-to-back road contests against the Badgers and the No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Iowa boasts a solid offensive attack, but massive holes on the defensive end. They rank last in the Big Ten in opponent’s hitting percentage and blocks per set. That could spell disaster for the Hawkeyes as the Badgers are the best offensive team in the Big Ten.
The matchup between Iowa’s offense and the Badger defense could be key. UW has held 10 of their last 11 opponents to a sub-.200 hitting percentage. Outside hitter Meghan Buzzerio leads the Hawkeye offense with 3.97 kills per set.
Wisconsin’s offense has had some suspect performances in the last few matches, but a tune-up against the lowly Hawkeye defense could be useful before their monumental match against the Cornhuskers on Sunday.
Junior outside hitter Molly Haggerty carried the offense last week to the tune of a Big Ten Player of the Week award — an award Haggerty hasn’t earned since her impressive freshman campaign.
The Cornhuskers (22-3, 14-2) have an opportunity to tie the Badgers atop the Big Ten standings with a pair of wins this weekend. Unfortunately, they also face Minnesota and Wisconsin on the road this weekend.
The Badgers swept Nebraska in Lincoln earlier this year, delivering the then-No. 2 Cornhuskers their first home sweep since 2014.
UW’s attack from their middles confounded the Cornhusker defense. Wisconsin middle blockers Danielle Hart and Dana Rettke combined for 20 kills and a .572 hitting percentage. If the Cornhuskers over-adjust to the middles, Haggerty could turn in another key performance.
Wisconsin’s defense will need to improve from that sweep as well. Nebraska hit .336 in that contest with little push back from the Badger defense. It was the first time Nebraska’s head coach John Cook had lost a match when his team hit above .300.
Outside hitters Lexi Sun and Jazz Sweet plagued the Badgers, so expect to see a defense designed to stop the impressive Nebraska outsides.
If the Badgers win their next three games, they will win themselves their first Big Ten championship since 2014. They currently have the second-most Big Ten championships behind Penn State.