The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (20-2, 12-2) have returned home after a two-week long road trip around the Midwest for a weekend of Big Ten matches. On Friday, the Badgers will play a highly anticipated rematch against the Purdue Boilermakers, and on Sunday, they will face the Northwestern Wildcats (11-14, 6-8), one of the teams they swept last weekend.
The No. 12 ranked Boilermakers are one of just two teams the Badgers have dropped a match to this season. Wisconsin Coach Kelly Sheffield attributed the late-October upset to the team’s lack of communication and lack of pressure from behind the service line.
Senior Boilermaker Grace Cleveland was an offensive force that the Badgers struggled to defend in their first match and will need to watch out for this Friday.
Jade Demps shined as a pin hitter against the Boilermakers in the last matchup, and it will be interesting to watch how she shows up to play with a home court advantage for the rematch. To come out on top this time around, Demps and her teammates will need to strategically hit around Purdue’s strong blocks.
Wisconsin and Northwestern met last weekend on Nov. 5 for the first time this season. The Badgers swept the Wildcats 25-17, 25-21, 25-15 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois. Wisconsin has won 12 straight matches against Northwestern, dating all the way back to Nov. 30, 2013. The Badgers are also looking to extend two other winning streaks this weekend — one of them being a 30 match home winning streak, the other being a 23 match Big Ten home winning streak.
Wisconsin kept Northwestern to a .156 hitting percentage while hitting .309 themselves. This was their first match hitting over .300 since their match against Michigan on Oct. 16. Wisconsin also out-blocked Northwestern 8-4, with four of the Badger’s blocks being from sophomore Devyn Robinson.
Devyn Robinson also led the team in kills with 10. Robinson hit .563 (10-1-16), her sixth time hitting .500 or more this season. Since switching to the middle, Robinson has been unstoppable in both blocking and hitting. Fellow sophomore Jade Demps has also been on the rise lately. Recently, Demps has been playing both front row and back row, and has been a source of strength for the Badgers. When the team is in a rut, they can count on Demps’ positive attitude to get them out of it.
Northwestern’s Temi Thomas-Ailara put up 12 kills, 10 digs and one block in their first match against the Badgers this season, which is on the low side for Thomas-Ailara. The Wildcat’s star outside hitter is one to keep an eye out for, as she typically leads the team in both kills and blocks while putting up some digs as well. Thomas-Ailara leads the team in aces this season with 36 and is a strong player all the way around.
The Badgers will seek redemption against Purdue at 7 p.m. in the Fieldhouse on Friday. Two days later, Wisconsin is set to face Northwestern for the first time at home since Oct 19, 2019 on Sunday at 1 p.m.