Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Volleyball takes on state of Michigan

With four top-20 volleyball teams from the Big Ten matching up against each other, all eyes will be on the state of Michigan this weekend.

The No. 15 Wisconsin volleyball team will be in the middle of the action, traveling to face No. 17 Michigan State Friday and No. 18 Michigan Saturday to begin its final road trip and final four matches of the regular season.

Wisconsin (20-8, 9-7 Big Ten) handed then-No. 5 Michigan State just its second conference loss on Oct. 20, with the Badgers holding the Spartans to a .122 hitting percentage — the lowest attack clip the Spartans have posted in any league match this season.


Wisconsin and Michigan State are currently tied for fifth in the Big Ten, with Michigan trailing both teams by two games in seventh place. Both the Spartans and Wolverines will be challenged at home by the No. 11 Minnesota Gophers this weekend.

With both Michigan State and Michigan earning spots in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament last season — and Michigan making a Final Four appearance — head coach Kelly Sheffield understands just how difficult this weekend will be for all parties involved.

“It’s the toughest road trip we’ll see all year long,” Sheffield said. “Both teams are just loaded with all-conference types of players.”

Michigan State’s all-conference player in senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski, who leads the Big Ten in overall points, ranks third with 4.44 kills-per-set and second with 0.43 service aces-per-set.

Senior libero Annemarie Hickey said the key to the contest with Michigan State is stopping Wicinski at the net. In the win over the Spartans, the Badgers allowed 16 Wicinski kills in four sets, but forced her into 10 errors.

Spartan senior middle blocker Alexis Mathews poses another threat to both the Badger offense and defense, with the high-reaching middle blocker topping the league in hitting percentage at .415 and placing second in blocks with 1.46 per set.

With Wicinski totaling 35 kills last weekend against Iowa and current No. 6 Nebraska, defensive togetherness will prove vital for the Badgers’ defense.

“You’ve got to serve tough [and] you’ve got to play good team defense,” Sheffield said. “That’s the key against those guys.”

Michigan State also boasts three of the Big Ten’s top 10 servers, including Wicinski and the league’s top digger, junior libero Kori Moster.

Sheffield stressed the importance for Wisconsin to keep Michigan State’s servers from getting into a rhythm or else Michigan State’s potent offense could put together an easy point streak.

“You’ve got to man up against them,” Sheffield said. “It’s constant pressure from those guys. Are you able to control that first ball and get a swing … the serve usually gets tougher and tougher and tougher as it goes. Getting on them on that first ball is really important for us.”

Junior outside hitter Ellen Chapman said a key to this weekend’s matches is for her and the offense to stay aggressive at the net. She did just that last weekend against Penn State and Ohio State, tallying 12 kills in both matches.

Chapman, who is just nine kills shy of 1,000 for her career, said Wisconsin was shocked by its poor performance when it was swept by Michigan last month at home, mentioning the team’s lack of focus against a team that UW normally has success against.

Sheffield said last month the loss to Michigan was the team’s first “punch-less” effort in a match all season, but said Michigan is a talented team that doesn’t make many mistakes.

“You really have to beat them because they don’t beat themselves,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield said his team hasn’t played its best volleyball yet this year. In the last four matches of the season, his goal for the players is to see what level of execution they can reach.

Hickey said at this point in the season, there aren’t many adjustments the team is making, but Wisconsin still needs to work hard to prove it belongs in the top half of the Big Ten.

“It’s going to show us a lot and show the country what kind of team we are and what kind of team we’re going to be if we make the [NCAA] tournament and how far we’re going to go,” Hickey said. “It’s just [about] battling point after point after point with two top-20 teams and giving it all we can.”

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