After receiving one of the top four seeds, the University of Wisconsin volleyball team (24-6, 18-2 Big Ten) had the opportunity to host up to four games in the UW Field House. That opportunity came with a hefty caveat: Keep winning.
So far, the Badgers have followed through. They ripped through their first two opponents Illinois State (22-12, 12-6 Missouri Valley Conference) and UCLA (19-12, 13-7 Pac-12).
UW rolled over the Redbirds in the first two sets 25–13, 25–14 before finding themselves behind 22–18 in the third frame. Big Ten Player of the Year Dana Rettke made sure a fourth set wouldn’t be necessary as she tallied three blocks and two kills, sparking an individual 5–0 run.
That run helped the Badgers steal the third set and ensure the sweep. Rettke led the match with 13 kills at a .400 clip.
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Their next matchup against UCLA was one of the toughest matchups for any team in the second round. While they finished the year with a pedestrian record, the Bruins swept No. 3 Stanford at home and have Mac May, the Pac-12 Player of the Year.
May led the match with 15 kills, but the Badgers tried to force other Bruins’ hitters to beat them. The hitters around May finished with a measly .176 hitting percentage.
The outsides for Wisconsin took over the match as Molly Haggerty led the team with 14 kills and Grace Loberg tallied nine kills on 17 swings with no errors.
The Badgers closed out the final set strong at 25–14 as they held the UCLA offense to a dismal .027 hitting percentage in the last frame.
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Looking ahead, the Badgers’ region consists of Texas A&M, Nebraska and Hawaii.
Their first matchup is with Texas A&M (25-7, 13-5 SEC). The Aggies faced a schedule packed with solid competition and took some tough teams deep in matches. In both of their matchups with No. 10 Florida, they fell in the fifth set.
They do have two wins over tournament teams as they beat Missouri and No. 9 Kentucky in one weekend.
“They’ve got an All-American in [Hollann] Hans,” Head Coach Kelly Sheffield said. “Her serve is probably the nastiest serve we’ve seen all year. It’s filthy, and we’re going to have to find a way to keep that ball off the ground.”
A win over the Aggies will see the Badgers face off against either No. 5 Nebraska or No. 12 Hawaii.
UW has won their last four games against the Cornhuskers and beat the Rainbow Warriors last time the teams met in 2016.
Last season, UW, Nebraska and Hawaii were the top three teams in average attendance. Considering Wisconsin is hosting the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight, they’ll have a huge advantage in the regional. Two wins this weekend will send the Badgers to the Final Four for the first time since 2013.
UW has lost the regional final game in their last three attempts to break into the Final Four.
The Badgers will take on the Aggies at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon before Nebraska battles Hawaii at 3:30 p.m. The winners of those matches will battle one another Saturday at 5 p.m. with a Final Four spot on the line. All matches can be viewed on ESPNU and ESPN3.