Although they transpired under decidedly different circumstances, the story behind each of Wisconsin’s last two trips to the NCAA tournament feature exactly the same ending. A year after suffering a tragic defeat to Stanford in the 2016 elite eight match, the Badgers (11-9 Big Ten, 22-10 overall) once again watched their championship hopes collapse at the hands of the Cardinals (19-1 Pac 12, 29-3), losing by a score of 25-22, 20-25, 21-25, 19-25 in the Sweet 16 Friday night in California. UW’s loss was underscored by its inability to slow down Stanford’s electric offense, a unit which hit an astronomical .436 on the night.
Road warriors: Wisconsin embracing underdog mentality in preparation for NCAA tournament match with MarquetteBy David Gwidt | Nov. 30, 2017
After advancing to the postseason 13 times over the course of his career, Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield has become quite adept at preparing his team to play in December.
In what has been a largely up and down 2017 campaign, No. 13 Wisconsin hit perhaps its lowest point of the season this past weekend. On the road in West Lafayette, the No. 13 Badgers (8-8 Big Ten, 17-8 overall) fell to the Purdue Boilermakers in straight sets last Saturday, suffering their first sweep since 2016.
When setter Sydney Hilley and middle blocker Dana Rettke were first brought together for a campus visit in 2014, they didn’t interact much with each other.
In what has come to encapsulate a troubling yet all too familiar theme of the 2017 volleyball season, a match that No. 8 Wisconsin looked firmly in control of completely unraveled after intermission, as a possible home sweep for the Badgers ended in a disastrous 25-14, 25-16, 21-25, 23-25,13-15 loss to conference rival Ohio State Friday night at the Field House. Like many contests that have yielded similar outcomes this year, UW (6-7 Big Ten, 13-7 overall) coasted through the first two sets of play, strolling into the lockeroom holding a 2-0 lead heading into the break. But once the players returned to the court for the third and potentially final frame, their previous good fortune went entirely awry, as the Badgers fell into a funk they could never find a way out of.
Over halfway through the season, it is safe to say that the Big Ten schedule has not done the 2017 Wisconsin Badgers any favors. After amassing an immaculate 9-0 record in the non-conference slate, No. 8 Wisconsin (6-6 Big Ten, 15-6 overall) has come back down to earth since the Big Ten season began, splitting its first 12 conference contests evenly.
Following the loss to top-ranked Penn State on the road this past Wednesday, Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield spoke very candidly about his disappointment with the play of the Badgers’ starting outside hitters, publicly criticizing the lack of production he saw from seniors Kelli Bates and Lauryn Gillis. But the two veteran attackers took the scrutiny in stride and responded to their coach’s call to action with a much-improved performance Saturday night against Northwestern.
Wisconsin senior outside hitter Kelli Bates was unabashedly clear about what a win over rival Minnesota would mean to her.
Successfully closing out opponents has proven to be quite the challenge for the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers as of late.
In Big Ten volleyball, nothing ever comes easy. Each team in the conference must overcome their fair share of obstacles, fighting to survive a brutal schedule which proves immensely challenging for even the nation’s most talented teams. And for the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (2-4 Big Ten, 11-4 overall), the arduous nature of life in the Big Ten has certainly taken its toll.