The Wisconsin volleyball team (0-2 Big Ten, 5-6 overall) will finish up a three-match road trip this weekend with games at Ohio State (1-1 Big Ten, 13-2 overall) and Penn State (2-0 Big Ten, 14-0 overall). After traveling to the raucous Sports Pavilion last Friday, where it was swept by the Golden Gophers, Wisconsin looks to rebound in hopes of its first Big Ten win.
The Buckeyes are led by second-year head coach Geoff Carlston. Previously Carlston spent five years at Ohio University, where he was able to rack up 144 wins on a .867 win percentage and an appearance in the NCAA tournament in each of his five seasons.
Ohio State kicked off its Big Ten season with a loss last Friday at No. 11 Illinois (1-1 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) but turned their fate around by sweeping Northwestern (0-2 Big Ten, 9-5 overall) in Evanston the very next day. The Buckeyes currently lead the Big Ten in aces per set (1.91) and are third in hitting percentage (.288). ""They bring a variety of serves. Some real strong serves,"" Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite said.
These could be huge advantages for the Buckeyes as the Badgers, on the other hand, are currently dead last in the Big Ten in hitting percentage (.188) and opponent hitting percentage (.209). An opponent percentage higher than your own always makes it difficult to pull out a win. As the Badgers have noticed, ""We're trying to figure out different ways to get kills. Our passers are trying to speed up the offense,"" sophomore setter Janelle Gabrielsen said.
Speeding up the offense is a must as Ohio State is led by a group of talented defenders. Freshman setter Amanda Peterson hasn't played at all like a freshman this season, leading the Buckeyes with .53 aces per set, 9.91 assists per set and a .410 hitting percentage.
The Buckeyes are also spurred by junior outside hitter Katie Dull who tallies a team-high 3.81 kills per set and senior defensive specialist Chelsea Noble who leads the Buckeyes with 3.85 digs per set. Kristen Dozier anchors the middle, adding a team-high .87 blocks per set.
After the Buckeyes, UW faces Penn State.
""If we solidify things with our ball handling, our serve receive and even our serving we can take them of out of their game, which they're clearly on top of,"" Waite said.
Penn State has won the past two national championships, hasn't lost a match for a NCAA record 78 matches and hasn't even dropped a set since November 24, 2007.
The Nittany Lions currently lead the Big Ten in four categories: hitting percentage, which they also lead the country in, at a staggering 44.8 percent (ahead of the second best by over 100 points); opponent hitting percentage at 6.3 percent; assists per set at 13.76; and kills per set, which they lead the country in also, at 14.98. Before the season began, four Nittany Lions were named to the 2009 Preseason All-Big Ten, the most for any Big Ten team.