This weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers (5-2 Big Ten, 14-4 overall) will continue their Big Ten road trip against Penn State (1-2, 13-8) Friday and No. 2 Ohio State (7-0, 22-3) Sunday.
Wisconsin is coming off of a bittersweet weekend, in which they swept Michigan State, only to reverse roles the next day and get swept by No. 14 Michigan 4-0. This wasn’t the performance the Badgers were looking for as they head toward their collision with the No. 2 ranked Buckeyes. In a match between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes earlier this year, Ohio State took home the win in a 4-1 decision.
Penn State sits in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten this year. They have had an up-and-down year, going 13-10 overall and 4-3 in the conference. Notably, the Nittany Lions took the Michigan Wolverines down to the wire last month in an upstart bid that was foiled by a 4-3 Michigan victory.
Penn State is a similar group to Wisconsin in their doubles-heavy approach. In the Big Ten this season, their doubles teams have put up 11 wins against only five losses (.688). This outpaces the dominant Badgers lineup, which sits at 13-7 (.650) in the Big Ten.
The difference between the two teams lies in their singles play. While the Badgers still rely heavily on their doubles, their singles are nothing to scoff at. With a 25-13 record in the Big Ten this season, including an overall 13-3 record for No. 6 singles specialist Daniel Soyfer, UW matches up very well against a mediocre Penn State singles squad. The Nittany Lions are barely above the .500 mark in the Big Ten this season, and have serious issues competing at the top few positions.
If the Badgers can continue their combination of lethal doubles and timely singles play, they should be able to come away with a solid victory against a decent Penn State team.
Coach Danny Westerman and co. have the No. 2 Buckeyes in hostile territory on the schedule for Sunday. Although Ohio State looks down on the rest of the Big Ten from the first spot in the conference, the team has been as volatile as they come. In 10 matches against Top 25 teams this season, the Buckeyes have been all over the place. They’ve had notable wins against No. 5 Oklahoma State, No. 19 Oklahoma, whom they beat twice, No. 11 Georgia, No. 1 Wake Forest, No. 16 Florida and No. 15 Michigan. In the midst of all this success, there have been some challenges. They lost against No. 3 Virginia in a 4-1 match and fell in back-to-back 4-3 matches against No. 8 Texas and No. 10 Texas A&M last month just before entering conference play.
These hiccups didn’t seem to matter for the elite Buckeyes. On the heels of these back-to-back losses, they have come into conference play and set the league on fire, as they are yet to fall in Big Ten competition.
The Badgers hope to play the disruptor this weekend. In order to squeeze out the huge upset, Wisconsin will need to be absolutely flawless. The Buckeyes have lost a combined three matches between doubles and singles in the Big Ten. UW will have to more than double the Buckeyes’ loss total if they want to go into Columbus and come away with the massive win.
The Badgers begin the weekend trip in State College, Pa., on Friday at 3 p.m, then again Sunday in Columbus at 11:00 a.m.