Minnesota volleyball vs. Wisconsin pregame notes

Brian Deutsch

For once, we’re appreciating the warmth of the Sports Pavilion, as No. 12 Minnesota prepares to take on No. 18 Wisconsin to round out the first week of conference play. The Badgers struggled in their opener at Iowa last night, losing to the perennial bottom-feeders of the conference in three sets. With the loss, Wisconsin likely will be moving down in the rankings, and another convincing loss tonight could drop them from the top 25. Minnesota played well enough to win in three against a scrappy Northwestern team, but coach Mike Hebert said last night that he hoped to see some improvement tonight, as he felt the Gophers didn’t serve as aggressively as they should. As always, here’s Krista Chin with the good stuff. DAILY: As a former player in the Big Ten, you have had plenty of opportunities to see Wisconsin. Talk a little bit about the Badgers’ style of play and their strengths from last year. Chin: As I recall from last season, Wisconsin is a great blocking team. Head coach, Pete Waite, is a very sound coach who encourages discipline and defense. Last season, Wisconsin had middle blocker Taylor Reineke and middle blocker/opposite hitter Audra Jeffers leading the team in blocks. Both Reineke and Jeffers put up a large wall, and it was difficult for any hitter to get around them. Even their setter, Jackie Simpson, was a threat on the right side. This year, it seems as though the Badgers will rely on Jeffers and their rising freshman middle block, Elle Ohlander. Because of Wisconsin’s large field house (home court for the Badgers), they like to stand deep and serve tough floaters. This was critical in Wisconsin’s defeat of Minnesota during last season, as we seemed to really struggle on serve receive. DAILY: Give us some things to look for in tonight’s match. What can we expect? Chin: Setter Simpson from last season was a four-year starter for the Badgers, so it will be interesting to see how they have adjusted to their 6-2 (two setter) offense with Nikki Klingsporn and Janelle Gabrielsen. It will be crucial for Minnesota to serve tough and stay disciplined with their passing and defense. They will need to put a lot of effort into covering their hitters, and the hitters need to stay composed if they get blocked. Looking at the statistics from last night’s match against Iowa, the Badgers seemed to really struggle in serve receive. Brittney Dolgner had five passing errors, so look for the Gophers to serve tough and keep pushing her on serve receive. Last season, a key focus was to serve Dolgner in order to get her out of system and force Simpson to set the ball elsewhere. Look for this tonight. STARTING LINEUP: DS: Hailey Cowles MB: Lauren Gibbemeyer OH:Brook Dieter MB:Kelly Schmidt S:Rachel Hartmann OH:Pamela Luiz L:Christine Tan