Wisconsin (6-4 Big Ten, 14-6 overall) returns home this week to take on No. 17 Purdue (17-4, 8-2) and Indiana (13-10, 3-8). Purdue’s scouting report has already caught the attention of the Badgers’ coaching staff.
“We're playing against a Purdue team that is I think 50 points higher than anybody else in the league, offensively with their hitting percentage, so we've got a real big challenge defensively to go against that,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said at a Monday press conference.
Wisconsin will be looking to capitalize on a huge weekend on the road. They easily beat Iowa to start off the weekend and then pulled off a program-first victory over No. 7 Nebraska.
“I think they're excited about not just going into a tough environment and winning, but winning and playing well,” Sheffield said. “You get some wins where you're fortunate to win but you don't play very well, the locker room still isn't great.”
It has been an up and down Big Ten season so far for the young Badgers. They opened up with two tough road losses against No. 3 Penn State and No. 11 Ohio State. Wisconsin was then swept by Penn State, but put up a tough fight in a five-set thriller against the Buckeyes.
The Badgers then rattled off four straight wins before falling in a home and away matchup against No. 4 Minnesota, and then went 2-0 on the road last week.
“I like this team,” Sheffield said. “I like the players. They're feisty and that grittiness is coming more to the surface. They're not giving up — they haven't given up on themselves or each other.”
Big Ten volleyball rarely affords the opportunity for long win streaks, so UW will be looking to build off its short streak this weekend.
“This is one heck of a gauntlet of a league this year,” Sheffield said. “Probably a more accurate way of looking at it is on any given night, any team could probably be the best team in the league.”
The Badgers' first opponent this weekend has fared better so far in Big Ten play. Purdue has only lost two games in conference play, falling on the road to to Ohio State and Penn State.
The Boilermakers have defeated the only other ranked teams they have played, No. 21 Illinois and No. 25 Michigan.
The Badgers' second opponent, Indiana, has fallen victim to the strength of the Big Ten. They’ve lost notable matchups against Penn State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Illinois and both games to Purdue.
Their only wins have come against Maryland, Rutgers and Northwestern.
After the Badgers take on Purdue and Indiana they will stay home to face off against Michigan and Michigan State next weekend.