As the women’s NCAA volleyball tournament gets underway this weekend, the top-seeded Badgers (19-1 Big Ten, 25-3 overall) will be starting their quest for a second-straight NCAA title Friday against the Quinnipiac Bobcats (10-8 MAAC, 14-14).
Wisconsin, as expected after notching its fourth-straight Big Ten title, earned a No. 1 seed and was the No. 2 overall seed which means it will host all its matches at the UW Field House until the Final Four.
Joining UW in the first two rounds in Madison along with the Bobcats, who made their way into the Big Dance by winning the MAAC tournament in a Cinderella run, beating the No. 1-seeded Fairfield Stags 3-1 in the final.
While the Bobcats appear a bit overmatched for UW’s firepower, the team’s star player is outside hitter Aryanah Diaz. Despite standing at 5-foot-4, Diaz leads the Bobcats in kills per set with 3.23 and has 21 blocks on the season including a season-high three in the final against Fairfield.
But height is certainly at a disadvantage for the Bobcats, who have only three players who are listed at 6-foot or taller on their roster. That could spell doom when playing the Badgers, who average 3.0 blocks per set.
With fifth year senior Danielle Hart playing at her best and middle blocker Caroline Crawford returning to the rotation after a finger injury, the Badgers are looking to be at full strength, and both those players are in the top ten in kills per set in the Big Ten.
The other match in the Madison regional features the Washington Huskies (12-8 Pac-12, 20-10) and the TCU Horned Frogs (11-5 Big 12, 16-10). The Huskies are nationally ranked in the latest rankings at No. 25 in the country, and are led by senior outside hitter Claire Hoffman who has 4.21 kills per set and boasts a dangerous serve with 45 aces on the year.
Meanwhile, the Badgers took on the Horned Frogs earlier this year, winning in a 3-0 sweep to start the season. There are also familial ties between the Badgers and TCU, as Shanel Bramschreiber’s sister Cecily is a sophomore outside hitter at TCU.
The Huskies and Horned Frogs will play first on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Central while the Badgers’ play the Bobcats at 7:00 p.m. Central. The two winners will then play for a trip to the Round of 16 Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Central.