My favorite old school sounding word to describe a big matchup is a “HUMDINGER.” So I’m here for a preview of tonight’s HUMDINGER between the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers.
The two teams are in the top 10 of the volleyball polls and the top two in the conference — set up by huge wins by both teams against Purdue for the Huskers and against Ohio State and Penn State for Wisconsin. Nebraska is still undefeated in conference at 10-0, while Wisconsin is 9-1, so the winner of this match is in the driver’s seat for the title. #analytics
If you look at the weekly volleyball awards for the Big Ten, they are all in some shade of red and white. Dana Rettke earned player of the week honors while Sydney Hilley again earned setter of the week honors. Meanwhile, Nebraska’s freshman libero Lexi Rodriguez won defensive player of the week and freshman of the week and their setter Nicklin Hames (great name for a Justified character, weird name for a volleyball player) also won setter of the week.
Nebraska has come on into full force after some early season struggles. All-star attacker Madi Kubik averages 3.38 kills per set while Lauren Stivrins returned for the Huskers after an injury at the start of the season to give the attack another kick. Along with Rodriguez, Nebraska’s other key defenders also have great names: Kenzie Knuckles and Keonilei Akana.
We know the Badgers will use a big dose of Rettke to attack the Huskers and a steady diet of freshman Julia Orzoł, fifth year Grace Loberg and probably sophomore Jade Demps on the outside, while also asking Devyn Robinson and Anna Smrek for some work in the middle.
Libero Lauren Barnes is coming off a career best 29 digs against Penn State and fifth year Giorgia Civita is playing without a right ACL like it’s not big deal (insert “what? Like it’s hard gif from Elle Woods in Legally Blonde). I think extra points should be given to Civita and the Badgers because they are playing an ACL down.
Either way you slice it, this will be great fun on Big Ten Network at 8:00 p.m. God’s time.
How to watch/listen
TV: BTN, 8:00 p.m. CT, Salima Rockwell, Larry Punteney
Streaming: FOX Sports app
Radio: Listen Live on U100.9 FM
Arena: Devaney Center, Lincoln, Neb.
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- Wisconsin is on a nine-match winning streak, their longest of the season. The Huskers are on a 10-match winning streak, their longest of the season.
- Nebraska leads the all-time series with UW, 19-7-1, however the Badgers have won five matches in a row against the Huskers entering Wednesday night’s showdown.
- UW, ranked No. 3 this week, has been ranked in the national poll for 130 straight weeks, including 33 straight weeks in the top 10.
- The Badgers lead the Big Ten and rank fourth nationally, allowing opponents to hit just .144 on the season.
- The Badgers entered last weekend averaging 2.28 blocks per set, which ranked 12th in the Big Ten. After averaging 3.61 blocks per set against Ohio State and Penn State, Wisconsin moved up to sixth in the conference with 2.47 blocks per set.
- Wisconsin leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally with a hitting percentage of .305. The Badgers also rank second in the Big Ten and third nationally with 14.65 kills per set.
- The Badgers also lead the conference in kills allowed (10.73), assists allowed (9.78) and digs allowed (12.16).
- Fifth-year senior Lauren Barnes has double-figure digs in the last eight matches, averaging 4.86 digs per set over the stretch.
- Fifth-year Dana Rettke leads the nation with an individual hitting percentage of .496. The 6-foot-8 middle blocker also ranks fifth with 3.74 kills per set.
- Rettke has 663 blocks, needing 20 blocks to break the UW mark of 682 stuffs set by Heather Dodaro (1994-97). She is also on track to break the Badgers’ points record of 2256.0 set by Sherisa Livingston (1998-01). Rettke has 2099.0 points, needing 157 tallies to break the record.
- Fifth year senior Sydney Hiller is on track to break the all-time record for assists. Hilley has 5,442 helpers, needing 392 assists to shatter the record of 5,833 assists set by Laura Abbinante (1993-96).
- Hilley leads the nation with 12.10 assists per set.
- Freshman Julia Orzoł ranks second on the team with 3.48 kills per set while Wisconsin has three other hitters that average 2.2-or-more kills per set— Grace Loberg (2.56), Devyn Robinson (2.37) and Lauren Jardine (2.21). In addition, Jade Demps (1.95) and Anna Smrek (1.57) also contribute offensively.
- NU leads the conference with a .283 attack percentage, 15.09 kills per set, 1.91 service aces per set, 13.91 assists per set and 17.48 digs per set in Big Ten matches.