The No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers (17-1 Big Ten, 23-3 overall) will travel to Lincoln to take on the No. 5 Nebraska Cornhuskers (16-2, 24-3) in a match that will decide the Big Ten will contribute championship.
The Badgers and Huskers should be used to high stakes matches by this point. From national titles to conference titles, the two programs have made up for each other at pivotal moments over the past four or five seasons.
Another thing the programs are used to: the badgers that end up coming out on top.
The Badgers come into play after not losing to the Huskers since 2017, including a win over Wisconsin earlier this year when the teams first met in October.
In that match, underdog Sarah Franklin got 21 kills against Nebraska as most of the Huskers’ stars looked like shadows of themselves. Madi Kubik – who dubbed the field house a “dungeon” before her October loss – was locked in and only managed .100. Freshman Bekka Allick was the only bright spot for Nebraska that night, notching 13 kills at .647 percent as UW shut down Nebraska.
If that happens again in Lincoln with the title at stake, UW will want Franklin to be at his best. The 6-foot-4 outside hitter was consistently inconsistent for UW. Though she still leads the Badgers with 3.59 kills per set, Franklin has been pretty error-prone lately.
The same cannot be said for Danielle Hart, fifth-year middle blocker. Hart has seen even more time since Caroline Crawford was out for a couple of games with an apparent finger injury, Hart has been pretty much perfect – literally. Hart had four clean volleyball games in a row and had 36 kills on 51 attempts to hit .706 in those games.
Hart was particularly impressive in the Badgers’ final game against Penn State, a five-set thriller that kept UW atop the Big Ten standings. Even as Franklin had some error-prone moments, Wisconsin got clutch shots from Hart and junior Devyn Robinson in the match that sparked another Titanic fight between UW and Nebraska.
Both the Badgers and Huskers (and Ohio State, technically, although they need a lot more help after back-to-back losses to unranked teams last weekend) have a shot at winning the Big Ten title, but only UW can win it directly. If Wisconsin beats the Huskers, they will win the championship for the fourth straight year. If the Huskers win, Nebraska must also win their last game against Minnesota to earn a share of the Big Ten title — assuming the Badgers win their next game against Ohio State.
The epic showdown for the conference takes place in Lincoln on Friday at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. The match will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.