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Wisconsin volleyball vs. Nebraska: how to watch, match preview, open thread

One match is all that stands between this Badgers team and immortality. LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

VOLLEYBALL: DEC 16 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers have never won a national title in volleyball. They have come close before, losing to Stanford in 2019, Penn State in 2013 and these Nebraska Cornhuskers all the way back in 2000. Most of these players weren’t even born when the Huskers beat the Badgers in five sets in Richmond, Va., but for long-time fans of the program this is a chance to right a serious wrong.

Despite not having won a national championship ever, Wisconsin has muscled their way into the conversation of “blue blood volleyball programs.” Nebraska doesn’t need to do any of that as they have five national titles to their name, the most recent of which came in 2017. The Huskers in volleyball are what Huskers fans think the football team is. Yeah, that’s how good they are.

However, all of that history doesn’t mean jack-shit once they players step onto the court Saturday night. In fact, if you wanted to look to history, the more recent history of this rivalry, which has seen Wisconsin win the last seven matchups, is far more relevant. In fact, until taking the first set of their most recent match, the Huskers had been swept four straight times (twice in Lincoln) by the Badgers.

The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (30-3 overall, 17-3 Big Ten) and the No. 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers (26-7 overall, 15-4 Big Ten) meet on Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio in an epic showdown. It is not only for ultimate conference bragging rights, it is for one team to cement their status as a top-tier program in the country. It is for a senior class to further distance themselves from others as the greatest to ever do it in Madison. It is for a perennial title contender to add another trophy to their overflowing case and exorcise a Cardinal and White demon that has been haunting them for years.

It is for a national championship and, quite frankly, there isn’t anything more that needs to be said.

How to watch/listen

First serve: Saturday 12/18, 6:30 p.m. CT; pre-match show hosted by Courtney Lyle and Jennifer Hoffman starts at 6:15 p.m. CT

TV: ESPN2, Paul Sunderland, Salima Rockwell, Christine Williamson (If you are a YouTubeTV subscriber, you no longer have access to ESPN channels. You also can’t use the ESPN app to watch any of the ESPN channels because they use your cable login to get that. You’ll have to get a free trial of Hulu TV or fuboTV or something to watch it.)

Streaming: ESPN app; Watch ESPN

Radio: WIBA 1310 AM, Jon Arias

Live stats: Here!

Arena: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Fun facts (according to the media guides)

  • Nebraska leads the all-time series, 19-9-1. They also lead 5-1 in neutral site meetings.
  • As mentioned previously, the Badgers have won seven straight matches in the series, including both matchups already this year.
  • Wisconsin is 4-1 in NCAA national semifinals, including a 3-1 mark under head coach Kelly Sheffield. They are 0-3 in national title matches, including 0-2 under Sheffield.
  • The Badgers are the only team making their third-straight appearance in the Final Four.
  • NU has advanced to the NCAA Final for the 10th time in program history and the fourth time in the past seven seasons.
  • Nebraska previously appeared in the NCAA Final in 1986, 1989, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2015, 2017 and 2018, winning the national championship in 1995, 2000, 2006, 2015 and 2017.
  • The Huskers’ 10 appearances in the NCAA Final tie Penn State for the second-most appearances in NCAA history. Stanford’s 17 appearances are the NCAA record.
  • NU looks to become only the second double-digit seed to win the national championship since seeding began in 2000. Stanford won the 2004 NCAA title as the No. 11 seed and is the lowest seed to win the national championship.
  • Lauren Stivrins will play in her third NCAA Final on Saturday after she helped the Huskers to the national title in 2017 and a runner-up finish in 2018. In her two NCAA Finals entering Saturday, Stivrins has 28 kills on only 45 swings, attacking at a .489 clip. She averaged 3.1 kills per set in her first two national championship matches.
  • Wisconsin has only lost two sets in NCAA tournament play, both to Louisville. The Badgers have also won their last 10 matches in a row.
  • This match is for the national championship. You win and you get a whole trophy and everything. It’s a big deal.

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 Nebraska starters

  • Nicklin Hames, 5-foot-10, senior, setter, No. 1
  • Kayla Caffey, 6-foot, senior, middle blocker, No. 3
  • Lexi Rodriguez, 5-foot-5, freshman, libero, No. 8
  • Madi Kubik, 6-foot-3, junior, outside hitter, No. 10
  • Ally Batenhorst, 6-foot-4, freshman, outside hitter, No. 14
  • Lindsay Krause, 6-foot-4, freshman, outside hitter, No. 22
  • Lauren Stivrins, 6-foot-4, senior, middle blocker, No. 26