Match Preview: Penn State Women’s Volleyball vs. Wisconsin
It has been a season of firsts for Penn State under new leadership for the first time in 43 years after the retirement of Russ Rose.
In the first season under Katie Schumacher-Cawley the Nittany Lions have checked off many accomplishments including Schumacher-Cawley’s first win at Penn State and her first ranked victory as head coach of Penn State.
The last time out the blue and white suffered a first unlike the others, their first loss of the season and Schumacher-Cawley’s first as the head coach of the Nittany Lions. A 3-0 defeat to the Michigan Wolverines ended the best program start since 2015, starting off 12-0.
When the Nittany Lions head to Wisconsin, it will be the first time that the No. 12 team in the country is looking for a bounce back performance. In that bounceback, they will seek their first top 10 victory with the Badgers being ranked No. 8.
The reigning national champion has now been ranked in 141 consecutive AVCA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll, including 44 straight in the top 10.
That ranking took a hit last weekend with the Badgers losing 3-0 to Minnesota. With both the Badgers and Nittany Lions looking to recover, this match will come down to which team finds their identity.
Both squads have established similar identities this year finding their strides right up front, but both teams had their identities squandered their last times out.
For Penn State, their presence at the net has been propelled by Kashauna Williams, Zoe Weatherington and Anjelina Starck. The trio of outside hitters are responsible for 353 of the Nittany Lions’ 590 kills.
Yet, two pieces of that offensive attack for Penn State were quieted by the defense of Michigan. Williams recorded nine kills, while Starck contributed five and Weatherington added two.
Starck and Weatherington both went into the contest averaging over 9.3 kills per match. These two, among many others, were unable to finish their attacks as Penn State hit a combined .105 against the Wolverines.
The task to get that number back on track will be met by the second best blocker and fifth best blocking team in the nation.
Danielle Hart ranks second in the nation in blocks per set with 1.67. The fifth-year senior is not alone in establishing the Badgers 35 block advantage over opponents. Caroline Crawford leads the team with 46 blocks, while Anna Smrek and Devyn Robinson have each added over thirty.
Spreading the blocks between these four and the rest of the team has helped the Badgers average just under three blocks per set and hold teams to a hitting percentage of .149, eleventh in the nation.
In this aspect what Wisconsin can do, Penn State does better. Penn State is averaging 3.07 blocks per game, which stands at second in the nation.
Likewise to Wisconsin, it has been a total team effort paving the way for Penn State to outblock opponents 141 to 82.
Taylor Trammell and Allie Holland are leading the way for the blue and white with 55 blocks a piece. Holland’s average of 1.57 blocks per set has her sitting at fifth in the country.
They will be looking to stop the attack of the home field that is led by one of three Preseason All-Big Ten selections on the Badgers in Sarah Franklin. The redshirt sophomore has racked up 115 kills this season.
Julia Orzol is next up with 96 kills and Robinson has recorded 77. These three have combined for 288 of Wisconsin's 446 kills, a 64 kill advantage over their opponents.
Penn State and Wisconsin have trios that lead the way, but part of their identities is their ability to have a total team effort in each match.
Both sides will look for a total team effort to get back in the win column at 9 p.m. on Friday in Wisconsin.
Justin Ciavolella is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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