After a pristine season, No. 1 Wisconsin (15-0) will face off against Weber State (19-1) in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Badgers are no strangers to the tournament, and are favored to win after coming in second last season. Weber State beat Bowling Green (22-2) in four sets Wednesday to secure its first ever NCAA tournament match win in program history.
“I know what these players are probably feeling like for Bowling Green and Weber State, you know the first time any of those players have ever experienced the NCAA tournament and it's such a special, special thing,” Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “It’s not something that anybody should take for granted and I know our players don’t.”
The Wildcats have had a strong season, winning the Big Sky Tournament Championship and going nearly undefeated.
Wildcat outside hitter and libero Rylan Adams has recorded 330 kills this season, and leads both teams with an average of 4.40 kills per set. The senior’s hitting is inconsistent across games, and her hitting percentage is .229 for the season.
Middle blocker Sam Schiess had led Wildcat defensive efforts this season, averaging 1.13 blocks per set. Outside hitter Makayla Sorensen has recorded 304 digs for the Wildcats, leading both teams with an average of 4.05 digs per set.
Other strong players for the Wildcats are outside hitter Dani Nay, with 3.36 digs per set, and middle blocker Carline Broadhead, with 0.84 blocks per set.
Weber State heads into the match having played more than twice as many matches this season as the Badgers, but having never seen a second round at the NCAA tournament.
After a first round bye, the Badgers will look to continue their undefeated season and advance to the third round of the tournament.
During the unusual season, the Badgers faced more than a month of cancelled games before returning to their regularly scheduled season to finish off with two sweeps of Michigan State.
“The timing of all of this stuff, as funky as it’s been, has probably worked out a pretty good situation for us,” Sheffield said. “It’s allowed us some time to ramp up and get going.”
Much like the regular season, the tournament will look different this season due to COVID-19 precautions.
“We’re just excited that we get an opportunity to play, and whatever way we can do that we’re happy,” Hilley said.
The Badgers won their second consecutive Big Ten Championship title this season, despite playing just 15 of 24 scheduled games.
Seven Badger players received All-Big Ten Conference honors, including Sydney Hilley who was named the Big Ten Setter of the Year. Middle Blocker Dana Rettke was named AVCA Northeast Regional Player of the Year for the second season in a row.
Initially, broadcast teams were set to come in starting at regional semifinals, but the first and second rounds were to be played without. However, all match play is now covered and will have live commentators on ESPN, the network announced Friday.
“There will be so many teams there and a lot of players that this is the only time they have ever been in the NCAA tournament and maybe the only time they will ever be in the NCAA tournament and it's going to come across like a high school type of deal,” Sheffield said. “It should feel special and for a lot of people that won’t be the case.”
Wisconsin will play Weber State April 15 at 6 p.m. at CHI Health Center Convention Center in Omaha, Nebraska.