#1 Nebraska (18-1, B1G 10-0) vs #5 Wisconsin (15-3, B1G 9-1)
When: Wednesday, October 26 2022, 8 pm (CT)
Where: Madison, WI
Radio: Husker Radio Network
#1 Nebraska (18-1, B1G 10-0)
#1 Nicklin Hames 5’10’’ SR Setter
#2 Kenzie Knuckles 5’8’’ SR DS/L
#4 Anni Evans 5’9’’ JR Setter
#5 Bekka Allick 6’4’’ FR MB
#7 Maisie Boesiger 5’6’’ FR DS/L
#8 Lexi Rodriguez 5’5’’ SO DS/L
#9 Kennedi Orr 6’0’’ SO Setter
#10 Madi Kubik 6’3’’ SR OH
#13 Whitney Lauenstein 6’2’’ SO OH
#14 Ally Batenhorst 6’5’’ SO OH
#22 Lindsay Krause 6’4’’ SO OH
#23 Kaitlyn Hord 6’4’’ SR MB
#33 Hayden Kubik 6’2’’ FR OH
#44 Maggie Mendelson 6’5’’ FR MB
Wisconsin (15-3, B1G 9-1)
#5 Shanel Bramschreiber 5’8’’ GR Libero
#6 MJ Hammill 6’2’’ JR Setter
#9 Caroline Crawford 6’3’’ JR MB
#10 Devyn Robinson 6’2’’ JR MB/RS
#11 Izzy Ashburn 5’11’’ SR Setter
#13 Sarah Franklin 6’4’’ R/SO OH
#14 Anna Smrek 6’9’’ SO MB/RS
#15 Jade Demps 6’2’’ JR OH
#18 Danielle Hart 6’4’’ 5th year MB
#22 Julia Orzol 6’0 SO OH
We could say that this is just one more tough match in the Big Ten schedule but the truth is, this match is different. When Nebraska and Wisconsin play volleyball, the heart starts to pump a little faster and a little stronger. Thump, thump.
Or maybe the thump, thump I hear are volleyballs hitting the floor as big hitters give the ball their best stroke.
In the history of this match up, Nebraska is 19-11-1 against Wisconsin but eight of those losses have come in the last four seasons. That makes it sound like Nebraska volleyball has been down, but that isn’t true. Nebraska has had very good teams in those years, but those teams were unable to produce a win against Dana Rettke, Lauren Barnes and Sydney Hilley from the Badgers.
That Badger trio, alongside their teammates, were crafty and skilled. Nebraska gave the 2021 veteran Wisconsin team all they could handle in the NCAA championship match but lost in end. The five set thriller kept fans on the edge of their seat for three hours. That is the history behind the Wisconsin and Nebraska match.
Let’s look to what the future may hold. This is the first of two NU vs UW matches this regular season; these two teams play again in a month on November 25th in Devaney which will be an exciting preview to the NCAAs.
Wisconsin is running a 6-2 offensive system. You know all about those now after watching Nebraska this season. The advantage is you always have three hitters in the front row. Just like Nebraska, Wisconsin has six very good hitters so this system makes sense for them.
The Badgers had a very impactful transfer from Michigan State in Sarah Franklin, she was a first team all-conference selection last season. Franklin is averaging 3.52 kills per set for the Badgers and is set more than any other player on the team.
Caroline Crawford is also a transfer portal gift. A 6’3’’ middle from Kansas, she is a quick and athletic player. Crawford averages only one kill per set but makes a large blocking contribution with an average of 1.49 blocks per set.
Crawford is starting for Wisconsin alongside returning Badger Danielle Hart, a 6’4’’ middle blocker. Hart was injured last season but is healthy this year and both an offensive and defensive power.
Also returning and key to Wisconsin are Julia Orzol, 6’0’’ outside hitter, and Devyn Robinson, a 6’2’’ right side hitter, Anna Smrek, 6’9’’, at middle blocker.
You are a good reader and noticed I listed three middle blockers. The 6-2 system allows the Badgers to move hitters around. Sometimes Smrek is in the middle and sometimes on the right side. In transition plays sometimes Robinson will stay on the right side while Smrek blocks middle. The Badgers are taking advantage of their 6-2 very well.
Nebraska hitters will need to pay attention to which blockers are in front of them. Hitting against 6’9’’ Smrek is different than hitting against 6’2’’ Robinson.
Wisconsin has three losses on the season. In each loss, a different area of the game broke down for the Badgers and they weren’t able to work through that problem mid-match
Against Baylor, tough serving caused the Badgers all sorts of trouble and is the main reason they lost. The serve receive passing for Wisconsin is susceptible to errors. Watch Nebraska serve defensive specialist Gulce Guctekin and outside hitter Julia Orzol. These two players can be aced and if it isn’t an ace it is more likely an off pass for their setter to track down.
Nebraska will also serve short in order to make Jade Demps, Devyn Robinson or Anna Smrek pass while they are in the hitting formation. This shot serve will also potentially cause problems for the hitting patterns for one or multiple players if it is well placed.
The loss to Florida was because there were too many hitting errors and at times there were no players able to earn kills, they would send over an easy ball and Florida would jam it down their throat.
The most recent loss was to Minnesota and it happened fast. Wisconsin lost three sets in a row on September 25 to the Gophers. Wisconsin again struggled offensively to find a consistent kill producer. They also missed 11 serves to contributed to the loss.
Wisconsin’s field house is sold out with the Huskers in town. The roughly 7,500 fans in the capacity crowd will do all it can to will their team to victory. In the end, Nebraska’s 6-2 offense is better than Wisconsin’s 6-2 offense at this point in the season. That reason alone is enough to give Nebraska the win but add Nebraska’s impressive floor defense and blocking to the equation and you have an unbalanced equation and a strong win for the Huskers. GBR!