Coming off a tough loss at home against Iowa in the team's Big Ten opener, the Wisconsin volleyball team looks to get back on track in Minnesota Friday night.
Wisconsin (0-1 Big Ten, 5-5 overall) is off to its worst start since 1992, when the team started the season 5-7. That team finished the year with a record of 14-17.
Things don't get any easier for the Badgers, as the match against No. 9 Minnesota (9-3) opens up a difficult three-road-game swing. Next week, the team heads east to take on two-time defending NCAA champion Penn State as well as one-loss Ohio State.
Friday's match will be the Big Ten home opener for the Golden Gophers, who went undefeated at home in their nonconference schedule. Minnesota won both matches against Wisconsin last season, including dealing the Badgers a heart breaking five-set defeat at the UW Field House in November.
Senior outside hitter Brittney Dolgner had a case of the flu earlier in the week, and it is unclear whether she will be back to full strength for Friday's match. Dolgner was visibly affected by her illness in Wednesday's loss against Iowa, finishing with a negative hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Allison Wack was able to pick up the slack and record a game-high 17 kills Wednesday, and she may be asked to take on a larger role against Minnesota.
The performances of freshman outside hitter Kirby Toon and middle blocker Alexis Mitchell were bright spots in the loss to Iowa. Toon recorded 13 kills, and Mitchell came off the bench to pick up seven kills, at one point scoring three of four consecutive Badger kills.
Both freshmen are likely to continue to contribute as the season rolls on.
The Badgers will likely work on their blocking heading into Friday's game, as the team recorded a season-low three blocks against the Hawkeyes. Wisconsin ranks last in the Big Ten with only 1.78 blocks per set.
Wisconsin looks to contain Minnesota's Lauren Gibbemeyer and Brook Dieter. Gibbemeyer, a junior middle blocker, holds an impressive .430 hitting percentage and leads the Gophers in blocks with 65. Dieter, a junior outside hitter, has a team-high 166 kills this season, good for an average of 3.95 per set.