Sept. 27, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- When the Badgers take on No. 1 Penn State this Friday at the UW Field House, they will be looking for just their second win against a top-ranked opponent. But Wisconsin (13-2, 1-1) will also be searching for their second consecutive victory against the Nittany Lions (12-1, 2-0).
Wisconsin takes on No. 22 Ohio State Saturday evening in Madison as well.
The Badgers defeated then-No. 6 Penn State 3-2 last season in Madison on Nov. 12, UW’s first win over the Nittany Lions since 2006. Now opening the 2012 Big Ten Conference home season, the Badgers will have the 13th opportunity against a top-ranked opponent in team history.
Wisconsin returns to Madison following a split weekend on the road, claiming a 3-1 win over Northwestern Friday before falling 3-2 in a hard-fought match against then-No. 20 Illinois. Penn State enters play having defeated both Nebraska and Iowa 3-1 at home. The Nittany Lion’s lone loss this year came in a 3-2 shocker against Oregon State in Chicago on Sept. 8.
“Penn State is Penn State,” said head coach Pete Waite. “A year ago, they were a very young team just like we were. Just like we have matured, they have matured. They’re making less errors. They've got new people in the lineup.”
Junior Ariel Scott, a 6-4 right-side hitter, leads the team with 3.71 kills per set while junior Deja McClendon, a 6-1 outside hitter, adds 3.36 kills per set. Junior Katie Slay, a 6-6 middle blocker, chips in 2.45 kills per set while leading team in hitting percentage (.457) and blocks per set (1.40).
“They're big, just like they've always been,” Waite said. “There's not a small player in the lineup.”
Wisconsin’s lone win against a No. 1 team came in 1997 when it defeated Penn State 3-1 in Madison on Halloween night. Nine of the Badger’s 12 previous matches against top-ranked opponents have come against Penn State, while another came in the 2000 NCAA Championship match against Nebraska. Wisconsin first matched up against a No. 1 team in 1990, falling to UCLA.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier for the Badgers Saturday when they host No. 22 Ohio State (10-4, 1-1). The Buckeyes went 1-1 last weekend, defeating Iowa 3-0 before falling to then-No. 3 Nebraska 3-1. Both matches were in Columbus.
All of Ohio State’s losses this season have come against ranked teams. The Buckeyes have fallen to No. 20 Oregon (now ranked second), No. 18 Pepperdine, No. 11 Florida State and the Huskers.
Last year, the Buckeyes and Badgers split a pair of matches, with both teams winning at home, 3-1.
Senior Mari Hole, a 6-0 outside hitter, leads OSU with 3.94 kills per set. Senior Emily Danks, a 6-1 outside hitter, adds 3.13 kills per set and also leads the team with 23 service aces (0.43/set). Senior Mariah Booth, a 6-3 middle blocker, has a team-leading .349 hitting percentage while adding 2.19 kills per set.
“You have ranked teams almost every time,” Waite said of the conference schedule. “The number is much fewer who are not ranked. It's just going to get better and better, more exciting for our fans there’s no doubt. Our players have to step up. But we’re up to the task.”
Friday night will also be Steve Lowe Night at the Field House, honoring the former head coach who passed away in August of 1991 after six seasons at Wisconsin. Additionally, all students will receive free admission and a free t-shirt Friday.