There really isn’t a whole lot to say about Saturday night’s Elite 8 matchup between the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers and the No. 12 Minnesota Golden Gophers that hasn’t already been said one million times before. This is a fierce border battle rivalry but none of their previous matches have had this high a stakes.
A berth in the Final Four is on the line. A legacy-bolstering win for Wisconsin’s decorated senior class is on the line. A chance the Badgers to win the program’s first national title is on the line.
This is a big one, folks. Come hang out with the best commenters in the country, if you weren’t lucky enough to score tickets to the match, and shout about another huge volleyball showdown between Wisconsin and Minnesota.
How to watch/listen
First serve: Saturday 12/11, 7 p.m. CT
TV: ESPNU, Courtney Lyle (PxP), Karch Kiraly (Analyst)
Streaming: ESPN app; Watch ESPN
Radio: U100.9 FM, Jon Arias; for those of you/us in the Twin Cities, KFAN+ (96.7FM), Tanner Hoops
Live stats: Here!
Arena: UW Field House, Madison, Wis.
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- Minnesota is 52-35 against Wisconsin all-time, including 11-8 under head coach Hugh McCutcheon.
- The Gophers had won eight in-a-row against UW from 2015-18 but the Badgers have won five straight in the series. Wisconsin swept Minnesota in Madison and battled to a five-set victory in Minneapolis already this season.
- At the UW Field House, Minnesota has won four of their last six matches. They’re 5-5 under coach McCutcheon on the road at Wisconsin. Overall, UW is 22-19 against the Gophers in Madison.
- The two rivals have never met in the postseason before.
- Wisconsin improved to 12-7 in NCAA regional semifinals with Thursday’s win over UCLA.
- The Badgers have yet to lose a set in NCAA tournament play and have won their last 15 sets, their longest set winning streak of the season.
- Five Badgers tallied 10-or-more kills the last time these two teams met. Dana Rettke led Wisconsin with 21 kills while Jade Demps (18), Julia Orzoł (14), Grace Loberg (14) and Devyn Robinson (13) added double figures too.
- Three players recorded double-doubles against Minnesota as well with Sydney Hilley (65 assists/16 digs), Jade Demps (18 kills/16 digs) and Julia Orzoł (14 kills/14 digs) filling up the stat sheet.
- The Gophers took down No. 5 Baylor in a thrilling five set battle in the Regional Semifinals on Thursday. Minnesota trailed 2-1 before winning the fourth set, 25-23, and then taking set five, 15-10.
- Airi Miyabe led the way with 18 kills while Stephanie Samedy went for 16 kills and 16 digs in a workman-like effort. Jenna Wenaas also posted a double double with 13 kills and 14 digs. Minnesota advances to its fifth Regional Final appearance in 10 years under coach McCutcheon with the win.
- All six UW attackers hit better than .300 in the Sweet 16 vs. UCLA as Wisconsin hit .357 (43 kills - eight errors - 98 attempts) as a team. Sophomore Jade Demps (.429), Dana Rettke (.412) and Anna Smrek (.400) all hit better than .400 while Julia Orzol (.381), Devyn Robinson (.353) and Grace Loberg (.318) hit better than .300.
- Setter Sydney Hilley put up 30 assists, running the offense and added a match-high 14 digs for her 12th double-double of the season.
Potential Wisconsin starters
- Lauren Barnes, 5-foot-6, super senior, libero, No. 1
- Sydney Hilley, 6-foot, super senior, setter, No. 2
- Devyn Robinson, 6-foot-2, sophomore, middle blocker, No. 10
- Anna Smrek, 6-foot-9, freshman, right side, No. 14
- Dana Rettke, 6-foot-8, super senior, middle blocker, No. 16
- Grace Loberg, 6-foot-3, super senior, outside hitter, No. 21
- Julia Orzoł, 6-foot, freshman, outside hitter, No. 22
Potential Minnesota starters
- Jenna Wenaas, 6-foot-1, sophomore, outside hitter, No. 2
- Melani Shaffmaster, 6-foot-3, sophomore, setter, No. 5
- CC McGraw, 5-foot-9, senior, libero, No. 7
- Airi Miyabe, 6-foot, super senior, outside hitter, No. 8
- Stephanie Samedy, 6-foot-2, super senior, opposite, No. 10
- Ellie Husemann, 6-foot-3, junior, middle blocker, No. 16
- Katie Myers, 6-foot-2, super senior, middle blocker, No. 23