Volleyball heads west for Pac-12/Big Ten showcase

first_imgThe Wisconsin volleyball team plans to showcase their talent this Thursday when it takes to the court for their first match against a Pac-12 team this season.Not only are the No. 10 USC Trojans (6-2) a part of the Pac-12/Big Ten Showcase, but the undefeated 9-0 Washington Huskies are as well. Both will take on the No. 4 Badgers (8-0) this weekend.New Big Ten foe Maryland will also participate in the Showcase, but will not play UW this weekend, saving that matchup for conference play.With both USC and Washington serving consistently and aggressively in the 90th percentile of the NCAA, in addition to controlling a decent passing game, Wisconsin has their work cut out for them as they try to maintain their perfect record.For USC, sophomore Ebony Nwanebu towers at 6-foot-4 on the left side. This summer, Nwanebu was chosen by the USA National Collegiate Volleyball Team to play in East Asia. In addition to this, Nwanebu helped guide the United States to a silver medal victory at the Montreux Volley Masters tournament in Switzerland. So far, Nwanebu has a total of 54 kills this season.Junior Samantha Bricio, the 6-foot-2 outside hitter for USC, is a valuable asset to the Trojans. She leads the team with 101 kills this season.According to Wisconsin’s head coach Kelly Sheffield, she also possesses one of most unique and effective serves in the nation.“Bricio has one of the best serves, if not the best serve, in college volleyball, very dynamic.” Sheffield said. “Nwanebu is going to be an absolute handful out there on the right side, big attacker.”Meanwhile, Washington will bring another challenge to the Badgers on Friday night.  Undefeated at 9-0, the Huskies have a team filled with valuable players such as Krista Vansant, the senior outside hitter who has totaled 128 kills and 63 digs this fall.  Libero Cassie Strickland has dug 95 balls and receives serve at an average of 97 percent. Finally, the combined setting abilities of Katy Beals and Tanner Bailey equal 306 assists thus far.However, for a team with consistent playable passes ranging anywhere from 87-100 percent off of opponents’ serves all season, and with a team average of 15.56 digs per set, the Badgers have maintained a focused and confident mentality as they head into their upcoming matches.“We’re working on what we need to, to be the best for these matches,” junior Taylor Morey said. “It’s mentality and keeping our heads. A lot of people can get too high or too low in these moments that it’s important to keep our heads on straight.”Although USC and Washington are teams with impressive rankings, win-loss records and high kill percentages, it’s important to take note of how successful the Badgers have been so far this season.Wisconsin is currently the only undefeated team in the Big Ten conference, standing firm at 8-0 after three wins in last weekend’s HotelRED Invitational.  In addition to their 8-0 record, the Badgers lead the nation with 15.67 kills per set, and are currently the assist (13.39 per set) and dig (15.56 per set) leaders of the Big Ten.“[One of] the hardest things for teams to handle is being able to put the ball down and be able to pass us,” sophomore setter Lauren Carlini said. “Because we are a really good serving team so I think it’s going to be a challenge on both sides.”Sheffield has brought a new approach to the Badgers’ offense this year, and has spent the beginning of the season pushing the tempo and making it quicker and more efficient.“I love the fast tempo,” freshman outside hitter Kelli Bates said. “I feel like it’s just going to be unstoppable because no other defense is going to be able to pick up where Lauren [Carlini] is setting.”The entire team, including the coaching staff, exudes excitement and readiness about the forthcoming matches.“We have big goals and we know that these are the types of teams we need to get into the ring with and brawl,”  assistant coach Brittany Dildine said.  “No fear or anything at all.  We’re all very much embracing the challenge.”All of the hype and anticipation feeding into these matches probes the Pac-12/Big Ten Showcase to be filled with intense and exciting rallies. Three ranked teams playing in a four-team tournament including two of the country’s most successful conferences should raise interest and excitement for players, coaches and fans from coast to coast.The Badgers will face off against USC Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday at 10 p.m. against Washington.last_img

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