No. 10 Badgers back home to host No. 16 Boilermakers, Illinois

first_imgThe Wisconsin Badgers’ volleyball team will be looking forward to returning home this weekend as they host Illinois Friday and No. 16 Purdue Saturday at the UW Fieldhouse after a difficult two weeks on the road.As senior co-captain Aubrey Meierotto sat out with pneumonia, Wisconsin split their four-match road trip, losing to the third-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions and unsuspecting Michigan.Meierotto returned sparingly against Penn State, but was back in the starting lineup in the Badgers’ 3-0 sweep of No. 19 Ohio State and will most likely be starting again this weekend.With the two road losses, Wisconsin also lost sole possession of second place in the Big Ten as they are now currently tied with Purdue at 9-3 in the conference play.With the second-place spot on the line, Saturday’s match against the Boilermakers will have an added importance as the stretch run of the season begins. The last time the two teams met, at West Lafayette, the Badgers squeaked by with a 3-2 win. Head coach Pete Waite knows this match-up won’t be any easier, even at home where the Boilermakers haven’t won since 1992.”Purdue’s right behind us in the Big Ten race,” Waite said. “We went to their place and won in five and they’re a solid team. They’re better than they ever have been; they’ve made the biggest surge of any team in the conference in the last two years, especially this year.””They’re a team that’s very hungry and they haven’t won here in a while. They’ve got the size, they’ve got the ball handling — they’ve got everything you need, so that one’s huge.”Since the Wisconsin loss, Purdue has won its last eight games and, even more impressively, won seven of them in three games, dropping only one match to the 18th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers.Maybe the most difficult part of matching up against the Boilermakers is the fact that the team is so similar to Wisconsin — a young team with a balanced scoring attack.Six players have more than two kills per game for the Boilermakers, led by 6’4″ freshman outside hitter Danita Merlau, averaging 3.5 a contest. Fellow freshman Stephanie Lynch adds 2.88 kills per game and leads the team with a .346 hitting percentage and 1.24 blocks per game.However, Wisconsin can’t overlook Illinois Friday night, as they’ve preached all season that any Big Ten team can provide an upset. That was even more evident with their loss to Michigan.Wisconsin routed the Illini at Champaign, but Illinois provided the Badgers with a battle in the third game as they jumped out to a 16-12 lead before Wisconsin put the game and match away.If it wasn’t apparent that Illinois won’t be a cakewalk, the Illini are coming off a weekend in which they swept Michigan and Michigan State.Furthermore, Illinois upset the Buckeyes at Columbus earlier this year so there’s no doubt they can play, and head coach Pete Waite knows this fact.”Illinois is playing a lot better than when we saw them down at their place,” Waite said. “They were struggling with some injuries and some departures from the program. Now they’ve changed their setters. They’re a faster offense, and they’re feeling good about themselves — they just got the wins over Michigan and Michigan State last weekend at their place, so we know they’re going to be tough, too.”Also worth mentioning, Illinois has a lot to play for as it tries to make a run for a post-season entry since they currently sit at 13-10 and sixth in the Big Ten.Senior outside hitter Rachel Van Meter is the Illini’s heart and soul as she leads the Big Ten with an astonishing 5.70 kills per game.Notes: Jocelyn Wack extended her double-digit dig streak to 52 last weekend and could move into fourth place all-time this weekend.The Badgers will be holding a rules clinic at the Field House Saturday at 4:45 p.m. before the match with Purdue.”Our goal with the clinic is to help fans understand the game of volleyball better and to learn to appreciate the strategy and nuances of the sport,” says UW Coach Pete Waite. “I think it will be a fun and informative session.”last_img

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