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Wisconsin volleyball: Big Ten Conference schedule breakdown

The three-time defending conference (and one-time national) champions have their full schedule out now.

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The schedule for the defending national champs is finally complete. On Tuesday morning, the Big Ten released the 2022 conference schedule for all 14 teams. Conference play begins on September 23 at the UW Field House and runs through November 26. Here is a breakdown of how the Badgers’ conference schedule shapes up.

Will they win a fourth straight conference title?

9/23 vs. Northwestern

Big Ten play kicks off on a Friday night at the Field House against a Northwestern team that has not defeated the Badgers since 2012. Wisconsin has dropped a total of three sets in 11 matches against the Wildcats since 2013. This is the only meeting between these two this season and should be an easy one to start Big Ten play for UW who will be celebrating the 32nd annual Steve Lowe Night.

9/25 at Minnesota, 10/29 vs. Minnesota

UW’s first big conference test of the season comes on the road against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers finished ranked No. 7 in the final AVCA Coaches Poll of the 2021 season, but the Badgers took care of business against their rivals last season, defeating them on three separate occasions including a three set sweep in the NCAA Tournament that sent UW back to Columbus. Minnesota will make the return trip to the Field House in late October for their second matchup of the year with the Badgers.

9/30 vs Penn State, 11/19 at Penn State

After only matching up once in 2021, the Badgers and Nittany Lions will face each other twice this upcoming season. Penn State gave UW a bit of a scare in that lone matchup, taking two of the first three sets. The Badgers took the fourth set 25-23 and the tiebreaker 15-7. This is a really good Penn State team who finished the 2021 season ranked No. 17.

10/2 vs Illinois, 11/4 at Illinois

Illinois had a really solid 2021, finishing 22-12 and ranked as the No. 16 team in the country, but the Badgers didn’t have much of an issue with the Illini taking both matches 3-1. That being said, this is a much different Badger team given the departure of Dana Rettke, Sydney Hilley, Gio Civita and Lauren Barnes. These should be two really fun and intense matches with the first coming at the Field House in early October before the Badgers hit the road on November 4.

10/5 at Indiana, 11/6 vs Indiana

Similar to Northwestern, Indiana is another team that the Badgers have had their way with over the last decade. Wisconsin’s last lost to the Hoosiers came in 2012, in large part to the fact that Indiana’s volleyball program isn’t incredibly strong and has had only five winning seasons since 2002. UW is the better team in all aspects of the game and should handle these two matchups with ease.

10/8 at Purdue

Wisconsin will only get one shot at revenge against Purdue this season who handed UW two of their three losses in 2021. Purdue finished the 2021 season ranked as the No. 6 team in the country and return plenty of talent including sophomore Raven Colvin who is currently competing for the USA U21 team. The Boilermakers will be one of the top teams in the country in 2022 and will provide a tough road test for the Badgers.

10/14 at Iowa

The Hawkeyes have won a total of four sets against the Badgers since the 2010 season. Let that sink in. They haven't taken a match from Wisconsin since 2008. Simply put, the Badgers have dominated every single aspect of the volleyball court versus the Hawkeyes for the last decade plus. This year, the two teams only matchup once and Iowa should be sending a fruit basket to whoever made the schedule. Badgers should roll in this one.

10/16 vs Michigan, 10/23 at Michigan

The Badgers and Wolverines will face off twice in a span of one week, first at the Field House and then on the road in Ann Arbor. UW has had their way with Michigan as of late, winning their last four matches by a combined score of 12-1.

10/21 vs Michigan State

Wisconsin’s only matchup of the year with Michigan State comes on October 21 at the Field House. The Spartans are coming off of a disappointing season, finishing 11-18 overall and 4-16 in the Big Ten, two of those losses coming at the hands of the Badgers. As long as UW doesn’t beat themselves, you can chalk this one up as a W.

10/26 vs Nebraska, 11/25 at Nebraska

These are the big ones. UW will take on Nebraska twice this season in a rematch of the 2021 National Championship game. Big Ten Network reporter and former Northwestern volleyball player Emily Ehman ranked these games as No. 1 and No. 3 on her “Top 6 Most Anticipated 2022 B1G Volleyball Matchups” list.

Nebraska has been picked by many as the No. 1 team in the country entering the season as unlike the Badgers, return nearly all of their talent from last season. Graduate transfer Kayla Coffey who tormented the Badgers in the National Championship game has made the decision to return to Nebraska for a sixth year and is waiting approval from the university. There is no doubt that these will be the biggest tests for Kelly Sheffield’s squad.

11/11 vs Rutgers, 11/18 at Rutgers

Rutgers finished the 2021 Big Ten season a whopping 0-20. There’s honestly not much to say about these matchups other than just get the job done.

11/12 vs Maryland

Outside of Purdue, the only team to defeat the Badgers in 2021 was Maryland in the Big Ten opener. This loss was definitely a blemish on the Badgers’ resume, as the Terrapins finished the conference season at 7-13 and missed the NCAA Tournament. After traveling to College Park last year, the Badgers will welcome Maryland to the Field House this season and attempt to return the favor. It is worth noting that this match is the second match of a back-to-back, so we’ll see how much energy the Badgers are able to bring on consecutive nights.

11/26 at Ohio State

The Big Ten conference finale is going to be a great one. Wisconsin and Ohio State, who finished 2021 ranked as the No. 11 team in the country, will only meet up once this season and fans have to wait the entire season for this one. In their sole matchup last season, the Badgers took care of business (3-1), but as mentioned, this is a new look Badger team. The Buckeyes should enter 2022 as a top ten team in the country and will be hungry to end the season on a strong note.

On the other hand, the Badgers have to take on Nebraska the night before in what I’m certain is going to be a dogfight. The schedule makers did the Badgers no favors here, as the last two nights of the regular season are going to be brutal on the road.