Coming off a stunning come-from-behind win against then-No. 2 Texas, the No. 3 Badgers (8-1) will look to continue their momentum as they open up Big Ten play.
They will take on their sixth ranked opponent when they play No. 17 Ohio State (10-2) on Friday, Sept. 23. The Badgers will have their work cut out for them, since the Buckeyes have an experienced team that handed Wisconsin one of its seven losses last season. The crucial player for Ohio State will be senior Taylor Sandbothe, who leads the team in both kills and blocks.
Sandbothe is not the only stellar performer for the Buckeyes, as junior Luisa Schirmer and sophomore Audra Appold both have over 100 kills, something only one Badger has accomplished thus far in the season. While Ohio State has much of the same team as they did last year, the same can be said for Wisconsin with a key addition to the team, freshman Molly Haggerty.
Haggerty is coming off a historic weekend where she tied the school record for kills in a match with 27 against Texas A&M, and then followed it up with 20 more kills against Texas. The addition of Haggerty gives the Badgers a greater threat on the attack. She seems to have found her stride and is becoming more comfortable in her role.
After taking on Ohio State, the Badgers will face off against Maryland on Saturday, Sept. 24. It may seem as if the Terrapins would be an easy win for the Badgers, since they are an unranked team and Wisconsin has lost only one match. This could be a trap game, however, if the Badgers overlook this game that is sandwiched between two ranked opponents.
Although Maryland has four losses on the season, three of those have come against ranked opponents. This means that while they have not played great against top competition so far, they do have the experience of playing teams similar to Wisconsin in skill level.
While the Badgers swept Maryland in straight sets last year, they will need to focus on a team featuring plenty of young talent. Two young, up-and-coming stars for Maryland are freshmen Gia Milana and Taylor Smith. Milana is leading Maryland in kills with 166 and is eighth in the Big Ten with 3.95 kills per set. Smith also leads Maryland in assists with 266, averaging 8.58 per set.
If the Badgers are not careful, they could have another difficult weekend taking on an experienced Ohio State team and a young and talented Maryland team. Wisconsin will open its Big Ten schedule Friday, Sept. 23 at the UW Field House.