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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, June 24, 2024
Kelli Bates

Despite their No. 4 ranking, the Badgers have struggled against the top competition in the Big Ten.

Badgers prep for yet another powerhouse program in Penn State

The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (8-2 Big Ten, 16-3 overall) return home for another tough weekend of Big Ten play featuring yet another powerhouse, taking on No. 10 Penn State (9-1, 17-4) and Rutgers (0-10, 4-19).

The first match of the weekend will be against the Nittany Lions on Friday, the Badgers fifth top 10 matchup of the season. Wisconsin has struggled against top competition in the Big Ten this season, losing to No. 1 Nebraska and No. 3 Minnesota both in straight sets. Penn State is currently tied for first in the Big Ten with Nebraska, but is coming off a loss to Michigan, a team UW beat earlier in the year.

The Nittany Lions have a phenomenally efficient offense and lead the Big Ten in hitting percentage, which could cause a problem for the Badgers, who have allowed their last six opponents to hit over .230. During that span, Wisconsin has registered two of its three total losses on the season; if the Badgers can’t find a way to mitigate the damage Penn State’s offense can do, they may be in store for another loss.

It is not just the offense of the Nittany Lions that has them at the top of the Big Ten, though—they are also holding their opponents to the lowest hitting percentage in the conference, but freshman Molly Haggerty believes the Wisconsin offense can change that.

“In practice we’re working and emphasizing hitting different shots,” Haggerty said. “We are just trying to go where their defensive players aren’t.”

After finishing up with Penn State, UW will look ahead to Sunday when it will face a familiar foe in Rutgers, a team they swept already this season. In the last matchup, the Badgers dominated the Scarlet Knights, winning each set by at least 14 points. Rutgers has been the worst team in the conference this season and currently ranks last in every category except blocks.

Wisconsin has only played six games at home thus far, but the impact of being at the UW Field House will be felt this weekend. Both matches will have sold out crowds, the fifth and sixth time this season. The average attendance for the Badgers is second to Nebraska, in the Big Ten and the fans should be raring to go against top-tier opponents.

The fans coming to this weekend’s games could witness a milestone for one of the most accomplished players on the team, senior Haleigh Nelson. She is just 18 kills away from reaching 1,000 for her career, which would make her only the 20th Badger to accomplish the feat.

Wisconsin’s weekend will begin Friday at 8 p.m. against Penn State, but it will get easier Sunday at 1 p.m. when they take on last-place Rutgers.

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