This weekend, the University of Wisconsin volleyball team will play Michigan State and Michigan to close out the first half of Big Ten play.
The No. 5 Badgers (13-3, 7-1 Big Ten) are set to play host to the Michigan State Spartans (10-9, 1-7) on Friday before heading to the University of Michigan for a rematch with the Wolverines on Saturday at 2 PM EST.
Badgers have excelled at blocking all season, and are currently ranked second in the nation behind Maryland. Badgers are averaging 3.13 blocks per set
while Maryland, who led the nation last season as well, is averaging 3.43.
Grad student Danielle Hart is averaging one block per set. If she can maintain that number, it would break the University of Washington record for blocks in a season (1.46).
Caroline Crawford, a junior from the Big Ten Conference, won six medals at the conference meet.
Coach Kelly Sheffield’s team has made plenty of progress, but he would like them to improve on their blocking specifically.
“I’m pretty wild with the progress and growth of our program, so I can’t imagine what the future holds,” Sheffield said.
We’re constantly working on improving our blocking technique. We think it can definitely be the best in the game, but even though we have room for growth, we are excited about it and are optimistic about where we’re at.
Scouting the Spartans
Of the 18 players on this years’ Spartanburg Spiders roster, there are only six returning from last season. The rest of the lineup includes players from across the league.
Illinois State’s men’s basketball program has had a makeover since they retired Cathy George and replaced her with Leah Johnson. Johnson had experience building a successful program at Illinois State, which is why the school decided to bring her on.
It’s been a tough season so far for Michigan State. They’re only Big Ten victory came in five sets against Maryland, and they lost in five sets to Rutgers. That was the lone conference win for the Scarlet Knights.
In the second set, sophomore Aliyah Moore leapt high to snatch the ball and launch a fearsome attack. Rebecka Poljan followed up with a powerful attack, though she was outdone by junior Nalani Iosia, too. The stat leader in this game is her stunning 3.93 digs per set.
One of the four assistant coaches for Michigan State University is Jake Barreau, who was a volunteer assistant for the Badgers in 2013 and coached three years at Monona Grove High School.
The UW-Michigan match is a replay from last Sunday, but in a different venue at the Crisler Center. It will be shown on ESPN2 after the match on Monday night attracted 244,000 viewers.
That was the Big Ten Network’s second-highest audience for a volleyball broadcast since 2017, and the fourth-most watched match of the season across all networks.
Of the 171 series Big Ten games this season, seven have attracted over 200,000 viewers. The most-watched Big Ten competition of season so far was Nebraska vs. Ole Miss on September 3 with 271,000 viewers watching on the Big Ten Network.