Badgers prepare for Penn State in Regionals
This is Wisconsin’s 10th-straight trip to the Regional Round of the NCAA Tournament.
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin volleyball team is days away from their Sweet Sixteen matchup against fellow Big Ten team, Penn State.
The Badgers have faced Penn State twice this season, winning both times. Most recently Wisconsin and Penn State went head-to-head on November 19, where the Badgers pulled out a win in the fifth set.
In that match the Nittany Lions had five different players with double-digit kills, and outside hitter Kashauna Williams led the way with 18.
Big Ten Network volleyball analyst Emily Ehman said for Wisconsin to win on Thursday, one of the keys will be defending Williams.
“She’s one of the best in the entire conference,”Ehman said. “She has one of the quickest arm swings you’ll see and you can’t shut her down, but you can try to slow her down.”
Aside from Williams, another big threat is middle blocker Allie Holland. Holland is fifth in the entire conference with 100 total blocks this season and averages 1.30 a set. Hollard had 15 kills in her most recent match against the Badgers and four blocks.
“Wisconsin has to get Penn State out of system but mostly so they can take middle blocker Allie Holland out of the offense,” Ehman said. “When she’s involved she’s so tough to stop.”
Katie Schumacher-Cawley is in her first season as Penn State’s head coach following the retirement of Russ Rose, and brought in eight new faces to the Nittany Lions roster.
Down the stretch Penn State beat three out of four ranked opponents, swept UMBC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and beat UCF in four sets in the second round.
“The Big ten Conference is the deepest conference in college volleyball and no one’s really going to argue with you about that,” Ehman said. “They’re consistently sending six, seven, eight teams to the tournament on a yearly basis so it is difficult to get a team to win in the Big Ten and to do it consistently.”
Ehman said it’s in these next two rounds that Wisconsin separates themselves from other teams, and shows why they deserve to contend for another national title.
“What Wisconsin has done really well in the past is the Sweet 16 round and really the Elite Eight round separating themselves and showing that they belong in the Final Four, they belong in the National Championship,” Ehman said.
The Badgers are second in the Big Ten with a .264 hitting percentage and also second in kills with an average of 13.80 per set.
First serve between Wisconsin and Penn State is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday, December 8 at the UW Field House.
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