Nov. 16, 2012
MADISON, Wis. - Still searching for that one win to assure them a .500 record this season, the Wisconsin volleyball team will take on the bottom and the top of the Big Ten Conference this weekend at the UW Field House.
Although clearing the .500 mark is the first hurdle for the Badgers (16-13, 4-12) to earn consideration for an NCAA tournament berth, head coach Pete Waite knows his team needs to give all it has these final four matches, including the two this weekend against Iowa and No. 9 Nebraska.
“We know we've got just four matches remaining, and our goal is still to make the (NCAA) tournament,” Waite said. “We've probably got to win two or three of these four to make it and have a shot at it. Our team is going to be working hard for that.”
Friday, Wisconsin will face the last-place Iowa Hawkeyes (10-19, 2-14). Iowa has lost its last 10 matches, including its last eight by 3-0 sweeps. It was a match Oct. 13 though that nearly gave the Hawkeyes their third conference win, with the Badgers just narrowly pulling out a 3-2 win.
Iowa has also shown they can beat a top team.
“Iowa has the one win against Purdue,” Wait said. “Which is a shock to everybody because Purdue was in the top 15 at the time.”
Sophomore Alex Lovell, a 5-11 outside hitter, leads the Hawkeyes with 3.17 kills per set. Junior Rachael Bedell, a 6-1 right-side/outside hitter, adds 3.01 kills per set.
The Badgers have won their last five straight against Iowa and have lost just once in Madison since 1994.
The second-place Cornhuskers (20-5, 12-4) meanwhile represent the cream of the crop in both Big Ten and national play when they come to Madison Sunday afternoon.
After dropping a pair of matches two weekends ago, Nebraska is back to its winning ways, defeating Indiana and No. 21 Purdue last weekend.
“Nebraska is doing well,” Waite said. “They've had some good wins, but they also, a week before, took a couple of losses at Michigan and Michigan State, where we just took two losses. Those two Michigan teams are playing very well. Nebraska is a very formidable team.”
The Huskers dropped matches after senior Hannah Werth, a 6-1 outside hitter, got injured at Michigan and also missed the entire match at Michigan State match. Werth ranks second on the Nebraska team with 2.89 kills per set and leads the team with 3.28 digs per set. Senior Gina Mancuso, a 6-1 outside hitter, leads the team with 3.44 kills per set and also has a team-best 28 service aces (0.29/set).
Wisconsin fell to Nebraska 3-0 in mid-October, extending a 14-game losing streak for the Badgers. UW has won just a single match against Nebraska in 16 meetings. That win came more than 34 years ago, in 1978.
“It's just going to be consistency and fighting at the end of each set,” Waite said. “Because in each of the matches, we're playing to about 18 to 20 points right with the team, and we haven't been able to finish out and close out those sets.”
Friday’s match with also mark Senior Night as the Badgers thank their three senior members, Alexis Mitchell, Mary Ording and Bailey Reshel.
“We're real happy our fans can send them off and see them on Friday and honor them,” Waite said.
Friday’s match against Iowa begins at 7:30 p.m., while Nebraska and Wisconsin face off Sunday at 1 p.m.