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

The Badgers are looking to get to their ninth straight Sweet 16 with a win on Saturday night.

Greg Anderson for UW Athletics

The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (26-3 overall, 17-3 Big Ten) brushed Colgate aside with ease on Friday night, sweeping the Raiders with a quickness. In the other match of the Madison pod, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (27-5 overall, 15-1 Atlantic Sun) upset the Texas Tech Red Raiders, via reverse sweep, in five sets. The Badgers and Eagles have never met in volleyball, so this is an exciting day for everyone!

At times, on Friday night, it looked like the Badgers and Colgate were playing two different sports and Wisconsin will look to continue that hot play against the Eagles on Saturday. FGCU is a more talented team than Colgate, however, ranking No. 33 in RPI compared to Colgate’s No. 106 rating.

While all five of the Eagles’ losses have come away from home, they proved on Friday night that playing in an unfamiliar arena won’t stop them from performing at a high level. They haven’t seen a team like Wisconsin yet this season, however, and with the home crowd behind seems unlikely that FGCU will be able to pull off another upset this weekend.

How to watch/listen

First serve: 6 p.m. CT

Streaming: ESPN+ on the ESPN app (this link SHOULD take you right to the volleyball portion of ESPN+, but if it doesn’t, you’ll just have to search for Wisconsin volleyball)

Radio: U100.9 FM, Jon Arias

Live stats: Here!

Arena: UW Field House, Madison, Wis.

Fun facts (according to the media guides)

  • Wisconsin is looking to make the Sweet 16 for the ninth straight season with a win on Saturday.
  • Graduate student Grace Loberg has turned up her play the last four matches, averaging 3.19 kills per set over the stretch. The 6-foot-3 outside hitter is hitting .255% while adding 0.94 blocks per set.
  • Dana Rettke leads all players in the nation in total blocks (720). The 6-foot-8 middle blocker also ranks second in hitting percentage (.424), second in blocks per set (1.46) and 15th in total kills with 1,753.
  • Fifth-year senior Sydney Hilley earned her 1,000th career dig at Michigan State on Oct. 15, becoming the 18th Badger to hit the grand mark. The 6-foot setter also earned her 300th career block at Michigan on Oct. 16.
  • Hilley is just the sixth Big Ten setter with 5,000 assists, 1,000 digs and 300 blocks. She joins fellow Badgers Laura Abbinante and Lauren Carlini in that exclusive club.
  • The Eagles are making their second all-time NCAA Tournament appearance since first going in 2018. That season, the Green and Blue defeated No. 13 UCF in the first round before falling to Florida in the second round.
  • Over the last six seasons, FGCU has the 12th most wins of any program in the country with 143 sitting just behind Washington (144) and Minnesota (145).
Please disregard any stats from a team that has “Raiders” in their nickname.
  • Junior OH Erin Shomaker, the back-to-back ASUN player of the year, leads the Eagles this year with 383 kills (3.87 per set). She had 20 kills on Friday night and finished with a .356 hitting percentage. She also added six digs and five blocks against Texas Tech.
  • Libero Dana Axner led the FGCU floor defense with 17 digs on Friday moving her within 15 of setting the program’s all-time career record.
  • Sophomore OH Emma Szypszak, as noted by CnC, is returning to her home state (Mequon, Wis./Homestead HS) for these tournament matches. She has been playing more sets later in the season, so we should see her out on the court a bunch on Saturday. She had five kills and two blocks against TTU.

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