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B1G Volleyball Weekly Update

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Huskers. Badgers. Wednesday. 8:00 p.m. Watch.

Following a grueling five set win over Penn State, will Wisconsin have enough in the tank for Wednesday’s showdown in Lincoln?

WEDNESDAY’S (8:00, BTN) Wisconsin @ Nebraska matchup is going to dominate much of what follows, so before we get to that, a few shout outs to the deserving:

  • Michigan State pulled the upset of the B1G season so far with their five-set win over Purdue in West Lafayette. While it didn’t register nationally the way Maryland’s win over Wisconsin did, MSU is a notably worse team than Maryland, and their win was on the road. This is the most surprising result in conference play so far. Congrats Spartans!
  • Illinois went 2-0 in a tricky week, winning @Northwestern and vs. Michigan, each in four sets. The Illini are now in a three-way tie for fifth with #9 Ohio State and #12 Purdue. The Illini are the first team out of the top 25, but are playing like a team that could crash the Sweet 16.
  • Penn State has as good of a 1-1 week as one could imagine. The Nittany Lions swept Minnesota Friday night and then almost ended Wisconsin’s home winning streak at 29 before falling in five tough sets. PSU also welcomed Erika Pritchard back to the lineup vs. Wisconsin. They are three matches out of first, so a conference title may not be in the cards, but PSU looks like they are rounding into form.

Last Week’s Results:

Wed. 10/20: Maryland def. Rutgers: 25-23, 25-22, 25-20

Wed. 10/20: Michigan def. Indiana: 25-22, 25-9, 25-21

Wed. 10/20: #9 Nebraska def. Iowa: 25-21, 25-22, 26-24

Wed. 10/20: Illinois def. Northwestern: 20-25, 25-19, 25-15, 25-21

MNW: This one hurts. In front of a raucous crowd, the ‘Cats hit .556 in the first set and then bottomed out at .000 in the third.

In both their chances to knock off the Illini, Northwestern has struggled—admittedly, being relatively undersized—to get their hands on the ball defensively, with no Wildcat notching any more than 2 blocks.

Wed. 10/20: Michigan State def. #7 Purdue: 25-16, 25-27, 25-23, 16-25, 15-10

Fri. 10/22: #14 Penn State def. #12 Minnesota: 25-18, 27-25, 25-22

Fri. 10/22: #3 Wisconsin def. #6 Ohio State: 26-24, 25-22, 18-25, 25-14

The Badgers put on a clinic, out-blocking OSU 19-6, and holding the Buckeyes to a .158 hitting % on the night. At the same time, OSU is a talented and resourceful team, and stayed competitive in the first two sets by continuing to take advantage of UW’s commitment to the block with a series of tips, taps, and off-speed shots that kept falling in-between diving Badger defenders. A 10-7 Badger lead in the first set was the last time the margin in that set was more than two, and it was perhaps fitting that the set-winner came on a kill by setter Sydney Hilley. Trailing in the second 8-14, the Badgers went on a 7-0 run on Lauren Barnes’s serve. From then, the second set was also a taut affair which UW took 25-22 behind some very clean play down the stretch.

After OSU ran out to a 15-7 lead in the third, saw UW close to within three, then re-asserted themselves, winning 25-18. However, UW held the Buckeyes to a negative hitting % in the fourth, and put the match away, 25-14. Dana Rettke (16, 1, 26, .577) was fantastic, which helped offset an off night from Devyn Robinson, and Gio Civita, playing on a torn ACL, returned to the lineup, giving the Badgers a lift.

That said, Rylee Rader deserves some praise. She is one of the best all-around players in the conference. Still, good win for UW.

Sat. 10/23: Illinois def. Michigan: 26-24, 25-19, 24-26, 26-24

Sat. 10/23: Maryland def. Michigan State: 25-20, 25-20, 26-28, 25-22

Sat. 10/23: #3 Wisconsin def. #14 Penn State: 25-27, 32-30, 20-25, 25-23, 15-7

This was NOT a classic match, but it was a great match. See below.

Sat. 10/23: Northwestern def. Iowa: 25-13, 25-23, 13-25, 25-17

MNW: Eventually Iowa was bound to find a set.

As in, that’s their first set won in the 2021 Big Ten season.

Whatever. ‘Cats win handily, moving on.

Sat. 10/23: #9 Nebraska def. #7 Purdue: 23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-21

Sun. 10/24: Indiana def. Rutgers 20-25, 25-21, 25-23, 20-25, 15-13

Sun. 10/24: #12 Minnesota def. #6 Ohio State: 22-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21

Awards and Kudos

Current Standings

  • Nebraska 10-0
  • Wisconsin 9-1
  • Penn State 7-3
  • Minnesota 7-3
  • Purdue 6-4
  • Ohio State 6-4
  • Illinois 6-4
  • Michigan 5-5
  • Maryland 5-5
  • Northwestern 4-6
  • Indiana 3-7
  • Michigan State 2-8
  • Rutgers 0-10
  • Iowa 0-10

Team of the week: Nebraska AND Wisconsin

Wisconsin defeated two ranked teams in keeping pace with the Huskers. They didn’t always look great against Penn State, but did show a lot of gumption in rallying to take the final two sets. Additionally, the Badgers have torn off nine straight wins while juggling the lineup and testing out some different rotations, one of which could see 6’9” Anna Smrek on the court along with 6’8” Rettke.

Nebraska is merely 10-0 and playing lights out. Dropping a set at home to Purdue Saturday night was a surprise, despite Purdue entering with a #7 ranking. That Nebraska won the next three sets was NOT a surprise. The Huskers aren’t the highest-ranked B1G team, and they weren’t the preseason favorite. However, they’re playing the best volleyball of anybody right now, and a win Wednesday at home vs. UW would open up a two-match lead on the field.

Best match: Wisconsin over Penn State

As noted above, Erika Pritchard returned for PSU. But she showed some rust, hitting -.029. Each team had 30 errors, and each had more service errors than aces. It wasn’t always a thing of beauty. But it WAS always compelling. The were some world class scrambles, especially by PSU. PSU’s comfort playing out of system was evident in erasing a 21-24 deficit to win the first set 27-25. The second set looked like more of the same after UW squandered a 19-13 lead, but the Badgers rose to the moment with some determined play of their own, winning the set 32-30 on their SIXTH set point (PSU also had two set points). PSU led almost the entirety of the third, but saw a 21-14 lead cut to 21-20 before righting the ship. The shoe was on the other foot in the fourth as UW’s 20-14 lead was reduced to 24-23 before a Julia Orzo kill sealed the set for the Badgers. Wisconsin’s 15-7 win in the fifth set was a bit anticlimactic, and was the result of UW outhitting PSU .429-.053.

Katilyn Hord’s big night (21, 2, 40, .495) helped offset Dana Rettke’s excellence (24, 2, 43, .512), but Rettke had more support, especially from Julia Orzol (19, 5, 58, .241) and the all-around hustle of Lauren Barnes, Gio Civita, and Sydney Hilley, who combine for 57 of UW’s 90 (!) digs on the night. Penn State’s 77 digs were nothing to laugh at either. No rest for the weary, though, as UW heads to Lincoln for Wednesday night’s titanic showdown.

This week’s top matches (all times Central):

CONFERENCE TITLE CHASE

Wed. 10/27: #3 Wisconsin @ #6 Nebraska (8:00, BTN)

This is not only the match of the week, but quite possibly the season (unless that’s Nebraska’s visit to Madison on November 26…). #3 at #6. 9-1 vs. 10-0. Preseason favorite vs. current leader. It doesn’t need any hype. Lincoln will be rocking and you should do yourself a favor and tune in. There is no CFB Wednesday night. No excuses. Watch. Enjoy.

Sat. 10/30: #6 Nebraska @ #11 Minnesota (7:00, BTN)

Sun. 10/31: #3 Wisconsin @ #12 Purdue (11:00 a.m., ESPNU)

THE SCRAMBLE TO MAKE THE NCAA

Fri. 10/29: Illinois @ Rutgers (5:30, BTN)

Fri. 10/29: #9 Ohio State @ Michigan (6:00, BTN+)

Fri. 10/29: Maryland @ #13 Penn State (6:30, BTN+)

Sat. 10/30: Illinois @ #13 Penn State (6:00, BTN+)

TELEVISED SO CONSIDER WATCHING

Wed. 10/27: #11 Minnesota @ Indiana (6:00, BTN)