Wisconsin Preview 2109

The Badgers were perfect in their non-conference matches, getting nine wins (Photo: Wisconsin)

Reigning Big Ten women’s volleyball champions Wisconsin start their defense to the conference title and their attempt to top the division for a tenth time on the road against Northwestern, in Evanston, Illinois, on Friday.

The match, set to begin at 20:00 local time (12:00 UTC, Saturday), will be one of three that will be streamed live to VBTV subscribers around the world in the first weekend of conference play in the Big Ten.

  • Watch the Big Ten Volleyball matches live on VBTV.

Two other matches, both held on Sunday, September 24, at 13:00 local time (17:00 UTC), will also be streamed by VBTV – the duel between Michigan and Maryland and the encounter between Purdue and Rutgers.

The winners of the last four Big Ten titles, the Badgers have won 69 of their most recent 75 conference matches, including the last 18, and were upset just once in the last season. Wisconsin have also been in excellent form during the non-conference matches this season, getting nine wins in as many matches and standing out as one of just six undefeated teams in the country.

The excellent performance has placed the Badgers at the top in the most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll regarding the favorites to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title at the end of the season.

Although they have their eyes on a return to the National Championship, the players know they need to deliver night in and night out in conference matches in order to thrive in the season.

“If you're only motivated by the one game at the end of the year, then you're going to miss all the really important moments along the way, and that's what really prepares you,” senior setter MJ Hammill said. “I think that what's so incredible about the Big Ten is that every single night you are getting battle-tested. You're going to these really difficult, really amazing environments to play in. You're playing against these really, really good teams, and you're learning a lot about yourself along the way so that you're not just turning it on for the moment.”

The match will be a special one also to graduate student outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara, who joined Wisconsin this season as a transfer from Northwestern and will face her former teammates for the first time after the move.

Northwestern, who were tenth in the Big Ten last season with seven wins and 13 losses, are looking to give a step forward and get in the conversation to make an appearance at the National Championship this season.

“We’re trying to not get stuck on the hump and be better about it,” junior libero Ellee Stinson commented. “But actually, learning from our experiences as a team and using that to fuel every session that we've been in the gym and holding each other to those standards of we want to get to the NCAA Tournament. We want to make a run in that tournament, and that's the standard in the gym every single day and holding each other to that.”

The Wildcats had promising displays in the non-conference matches, getting six wins in ten matches and completing their schedule with a sweep of Yale last Friday.

The Big Ten conference calendar started on Wednesday with two matches and had Penn State sweeping Rutgers and Indiana defeating Illinois 3-1.

Quick links:
Big Ten Volleyball
Subscribe to Volleyball World's Newsletter