The No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers (17-1 Big Ten, 23-3 overall) will travel to Lincoln to take on the No. 5 Nebraska Cornhuskers (16-2, 24-3) in a match that will help decide the Big Ten championship.
The Badgers and Huskers should be used to high stakes matches at this point. From national titles to conference titles, the two programs have locked horns in crucial moments over the past four or five seasons.
Another thing the programs are used to: the Badgers coming out on top in the end.
The Badgers come into the match not having lost to the Huskers since 2017, including a sweep by Wisconsin this year when the teams first met in October.
In that match, outside hitter Sarah Franklin had 21 kills against Nebraska as most of the Huskers’ stars looked like shadows of themselves. Madi Kubik — who called the Field House a “dungeon” before their loss in October — was locked down, hitting just .100. Freshman Bekka Allick was the only bright spot for Nebraska that night, hitting for 13 kills on .647 percent as UW shut down Nebraska.
If that’s going to happen again in Lincoln with the title on the line, UW will want Franklin to be at her best. The 6-foot-4 outside hitter has been consistently inconsistent for UW. Though she still leads the Badgers in kills per set with 3.59, Franklin has been pretty error-prone of late.
The same can not be said for fifth year middle blocker Danielle Hart. Hart has seen even more time since Caroline Crawford has been out for a few matches with an apparent finger injury, Hart has been pretty much perfect — literally. Hart has had four straight games of error free volleyball, notching 36 kills on 51 attempts to hit .706 in those matches.
Hart was especially impressive in the Badgers’ last game out against Penn State, a five-set thriller that kept UW on top of the Big Ten standings. Even as Franklin had some error-prone moments, Wisconsin got clutch shots from Hart and junior Devyn Robinson in the match that set up another titanic clash between UW and Nebraska.
Both the Badgers and Huskers (and Ohio State, technically, though they need much more help after two straight loses to unranked teams last weekend) have a chance to win the Big Ten title, but only UW can win it outright. If Wisconsin beats the Huskers, they will win the championship for the fourth straight year. If the Huskers win, Nebraska will need to also win their final match against Minnesota to earn a share of the Big Ten title — assuming the Badgers will win their next game against Ohio State.
The epic showdown for the conference will happen Friday at 7:00 p.m. central time in Lincoln. The match will be aired on Big Ten Network.