Coming off another inconsistent weekend in which the Badgers (6-6 Big Ten, 11-10 overall) split games, the Wisconsin volleyball team looks forward to facing two quality opponents at home in top-ranked Penn State and Ohio State this weekend.
Penn State is up first, as they roll into the Field House to play at 7 p.m. Friday.
""Every Penn State game there is always a huge crowd. So the crowd is definitely going to be helping us out,"" sophomore setter Janelle Gabrielsen said.
The Badgers will be counting on support from the Field House more than ever Friday night.
Penn State has won 88 consecutive matches, the fourth-longest winning streak across all sports in the NCAA, having lost only 4 sets all year. The Nittany Lions have been dominating their competition, ranking first in the Big Ten in hitting percentage at 41.2 percent, kills per set at 14.83, blocks per set at 3.06, assists per set at 13.74 and opponent hitting percentage at 9.3 percent.
""Penn State's an extremely physical team. They're big. They jump high. They're very consistent. At the same time, teams have shown that they can take sets off them this year. We have a chance to go after them,"" head coach Pete Waite said.
Junior middle blocker Arielle Wilson leads the sensational Nittany Lion offense, contributing 2.71 kills and 1.51 blocks per set on a NCAA-leading 56.9 hitting percentage. The offense is directed by senior setter Alisha Glass, who leads the Big Ten with 12.03 assists per set.
She passes a majority of balls to senior outside hitter Megan Hodge, the Big Ten leader with 4.80 kills per set on a 43.9 hitting percentage. Junior libero Alyssa D'Errico runs the defense, recording 3.38 digs per set and adding a Big Ten-leading .55 aces per set.
Wisconsin has to keep its energy up as it plays host to Ohio State at 7 Saturday night.
""One of the keys is you play a ranked team and sometimes you get more up for them,"" Waite said. ""But you have to be just as up for any team you play in the Big Ten, because they're all capable of beating anybody, any day.""
""Ohio State is playing their best ball of the season, much better than earlier when we played at their place,"" he added.
When these two teams last met in Columbus Oct. 2, the Badgers came out on top with a 3-1 victory.
This time around won't be as easy: Ohio State is currently tied with Wisconsin for fifth in the Big Ten and has won four out of their last six matches. The Badgers will be watching out for junior outside hitter Katie Dull, who smacks home 3.91 kills per set, and senior middle blocker Kristen Dozier, who records 2.37 kills and a team-high .79 stuffs per set.
They will also have to keep an eye on the emerging freshman outside hitter Emily Danks, who puts up 2.14 kills and .39 aces per set.
For the Badgers to continue moving up in the RPI after jumping up four spots to 39th this past week, they'll need Gabrielsen and senior outside hitter Brittney Dolgner to continue their recent success.
Dolgner posted an outstanding 4.57 kills per set on 34.4 percent hitting last weekend. Gabrielsen has had double-digit digs in four out of the last five matches, 9.76 assists per set in Big Ten matches and even contributed on the attacking end with 6 kills on 67.7 percent hitting in Wisconsin's last match at Michigan State.