Following the back-to-back sweep of Dayton, the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team (4-0) remains ranked No. 2 as they prepare to face the reigning NCAA Champs, the Kentucky Wildcats (5-1), on Friday.
The Badgers have yet to face the Wildcats this season, after falling to Kentucky in the 2020 NCAA Championship Final.
Last weekend, Wisconsin swept the Dayton Flyers two nights in a row. In both games, the Badgers led each statistical category, and they improved their errors from 12 the first night to just seven the second night. Despite the Flyers seemingly catching up during the third sets both nights, the Badgers refused to drop a set against Dayton.
On the other hand, the Wildcats split their past weekend 2-1, defeating Northern Iowa and USC and falling to previously unranked Creighton. Following the loss to the Bluejays, Kentucky saw their ranking drop five places from No. 3 to No. 8. Although Kentucky has lost a few crucial players from last year's championship team, they remain a formidable opponent for the Badgers.
Kentucky sophomore, Madi Skinner, is one to watch out for, as she averages 3.67 kills per set. Skinner, the 2020-2021 VCA Honorable Mention All-American, had a season-high 14 kills in their loss to Creighton. Others to watch for include decorated senior Alli Stumler, averaging 3.39 kills per set, and sophomore Riah Walker, averaging 4.06 digs per set.
Badger sophomore Jade Demps is on the rise as she has recently proved herself in the matches against Dayton. Demps hit a combined 15 kills in the two games against the Flyers, with only three errors on 37 attempts.
Head coach Kelly Sheffield is optimistic about the young talent, sharing the important role he believes Demps plays on his team.
"I thought Jade had a really nice match," said Sheffield. "She can be a big part of our team which is what you want to see. She is a young player who is going through her career and they get a bigger presence as they keep going."
As the Badgers approach the end of their five-game season home opener, they are nearing certain milestones. The Badgers are on a 24 game winning streak at home, which has dated all the way back to Sept. 19, 2019.
In addition to a possible 24 home game winning streak being at stake, graduate student Dana Rettke is a few blocks away from becoming the fourth Badger to reach 600 career blocks. Currently at 596 blocks, Rettke is averaging 1.55 blocks per set this season and 1.46 blocks per set during her career at UW.
Kentucky will be the toughest competition the Badgers have had to face thus far in the season. Both teams were in the top three last season; However, the Badgers did not lose as many veterans as Kentucky.
Wisconsin plays Kentucky Friday at 8 p.m. in Madison, Wisconsin at the UW Field House.