Husker volleyball

Husker volleyball player Callie Schwarzenbach sets the ball inside the Bob Devaney Sports Center during a match against Indiana on Oct. 10, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The fifth-ranked Nebraska volleyball team continues its stretch of three consecutive road matches with a contest against No. 9 Wisconsin on Friday.

Nebraska comes into the match at 15-3 (6-2 Big Ten) after losing two of its last three matches, although both losses came against top-10 opponents. The Huskers lost to then-No. 5 Minnesota 3-1 in Lincoln, Nebraska on Oct. 6, and fell to then-No. 9 Penn State 3-2 in State College, Pennsylvania last Saturday. In between those two matches, Nebraska picked up a win with a sweep against Indiana.

Wisconsin currently sits at 12-4 (5-3 Big Ten) and also lost two of its last three contests. The Badgers fell on the road to Iowa 3-2. Wisconsin then rebounded with a sweep over the Northwestern Wildcats last Friday before falling to No. 7 Illinois 3-1 at home. The defeat against the Illini was the first Badger loss at home this season.

The Badgers won the last match between the two programs just over a year ago on Oct. 11, 2017. Wisconsin took that contest 3-1 in Madison, Wisconsin behind a 12-kill and .500-hitting performance by middle blocker Dana Rettke. That game was also the last loss for the Huskers on their way to a national championship.  

Now a sophomore, Rettke continues to lead the Badgers. She leads the team with 3.63 kills per set and also leads all qualified Wisconsin players with a .405 hitting percentage. Rettke has scored double-digit kills in 12 of the Badgers’ 16 matches this season, including in the six most recent contests. On defense, Rettke leads the Badgers with 1.56 blocks per set.

Rettke’s offensive prowess reflects well on the rest of the Badger squad. Wisconsin ranks second in the Big Ten with a .292 hitting percentage and also ranks third in the conference in kills per set with 14.23.

Nebraska will have to counter Rettke and the rest of the Badgers’ offense with its nation-leading defense. The Huskers are allowing opponents to hit just .127 against them, good for first in the country. Nebraska also ranks second in the Big Ten with 2.86 blocks per set as a team.

A big part of that defense comes from freshman blocker Callie Schwarzenbach. She leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally in blocks per set with a 1.64 average.

Senior captain and libero Kenzie Maloney is also playing a big role on the Huskers’ defense. She is averaging 3.89 digs per set, which is the best on the team. Freshman setter Nicklin Hames has also stepped up on defense with 3.09 digs per set.

This match will tell a lot about a young Huskers team that has 11 freshmen and sophomores. In four contests against top-10 opponents this year, Nebraska is 1-3. Wisconsin has also recently been a thorn in the Huskers side, taking three of the last five matches from the Huskers.

First serve from the UW Field House is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT. The match will air on BTN and BTN2Go.