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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024
Kelli Bates knows that the Badgers can't look past Maryland, despite the big matchup with Minnesota this weekend.

Kelli Bates knows that the Badgers can't look past Maryland, despite the big matchup with Minnesota this weekend.

Badgers prep for rematch with No. 2 Minnesota

As the 2016 regular season winds down and the NCAA Tournament looms near, the Wisconsin Badgers are playing about as well as they could have hoped.

After earning a pair of resounding wins at home this past weekend, Wisconsin (16-2 Big Ten, 24-3 overall) heads into its regular season finale on a tear. Regarded as a top-flight team all season, the Badgers have taken their game to the next level down the stretch run, making the pivotal late-season push that every program longs for.

Currently riding a nine-match win streak, UW will look to put the finishing touches on one of the most remarkable regular seasons in school history. First, it will wrap up the home season by welcoming Iowa to the Field House Wednesday night. After hosting the Hawkeyes, the Badgers will venture north to Minnesota, where they will play in a marquee matchup with the No. 2-ranked Golden Gophers next Friday night.

Iowa (9-9, 19-11) will head to the Field House on a quest for redemption, looking to avenge a loss it suffered at the hands of the Badgers in October. Offensive woes cost them in that contest, as the Hawkeyes mustered a mere .217 hitting percentage against the stiff UW defense. The Hawkeye offense runs through standout setter Loxley Keala, who ranks fourth in the conference in assists with 11.25 per set. Iowa will need to improve defensively in its second meeting with Wisconsin, as lackluster defense allowed the Badgers to dominate offensively, posting a whopping .339 hitting percentage. If history repeats itself, hitter Romana Kriskova could be in for a big day. Now in her fifth season, the redshirt senior has been lighting it up recently, recording at least 10 kills in four of the last seven matches.

Only three opponents have managed to best Wisconsin in 2016, and the Badgers will get a shot at redemption against one Friday night in Minnesota. The last time UW squared off with the Gophers (14-3, 24-4) in early October, it was upset in striking fashion. Then the top team in the nation, Wisconsin fell to Minnesota in straight sets, as the visiting team dominated every phase of the game.

If the Badgers wish to see their fortunes change this time around, they will need to play their best game of the season. They’ll be battling a team that downright embarrassed them on their home court, holding them to a season-low .050 hitting percentage. In the first matchup, Wisconsin couldn’t generate any offense whatsoever, while Minnesota scored with ease, hitting at a .339 clip. The Gophers’ offensive onslaught was no fluke, as they rank second in the conference in hit percentage and fifth in kills. Star setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson orchestrates the potent Minnesota offense with deft passing skills, second to only Lauren Carlini in assists. On the defensive end, middle blocker Molly Lohman leads the way for the Gophers, piling up the fourth-most blocks in the league.

Wisconsin does not get beat that badly often, so expect the Badgers to fare better against Minnesota than they did in the first match—but coming up with a win will surely be a daunting task.

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The Badgers will take the floor at the Field House for the final time against Iowa Wednesday night at 7 p.m. They conclude their season Friday against Minnesota at 7:30 p.m.

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