WSUM Sports Roundtable: Can the Badgers get rid of the bad taste in their mouths and get back to the Final Four again?

  • Post Author
    by Sports director
  • Post Date
    Thu Dec 07 2023

By: WSUM Sports Team

Members of the UW women's volleyball celebrate the the match-winning score as the team takes on the Nebraska Cornhuskers during a volleyball match held at the UW Field House at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Nov. 24, 2023. The Badgers won the match 3-0. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW–Madison)

Well, here we are again. The University of Wisconsin‘s volleyball team is back in the second weekend of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament, hosting the two biggest matches of the season at the UW Field House in Madison starting tonight.

The Badgers (28-3) took care of business against Jackson State and Miami last weekend in a pair of sweeps, but now they turn their attention to a Penn State team who beat them earlier this season in a rematch of last year's regional semifinal.

Can the Badgers enact their revenge from earlier this season? Or does Penn State get their revenge from last season? Plus, if they do win, what about the potential matchup in the regional final against Purdue or Oregon? Find out what the WSUM Sports Team thinks in the latest roundtable!

What was your instant reaction to Wisconsin's seed (1) and region:

They are more than deserving of the one seed and having potentially four games at the Field House is huge. I am a little worried about Penn State, and possibly Purdue, but they should be able to win and avoid the upset. -Joseph Angelo

Well deserved. This is one of the best teams in the country and having home court advantage is huge for a tournament of this magnitude. -Matthew Lodarek

There was never a question in my mind of Wisconsin getting a No. 1 seed. Regardless of their wins and losses this year, the sheer magnitude of talent is overwhelming when it comes to their starting roster. -Dani Savin

It was not surprising. When the Badgers are healthy and playing well, they are totally a top two team, if not the best team in the country. The Badgers getting to host and play at home until taking a trip to Tampa is very well deserved and very exciting. -Camryn Fjelstad

I was happy with the seeding, but as far as the region, not as much. The fact that three of the five Big Ten teams in the tournament were in Wisconsin's region feels like an annoying oversight. Now, all three of those teams are in Madison for the regional this weekend, plus an addition next year, and only one can advance. For the Big Ten, that's not ideal. -Anthony Winker

I believed that a number one seed was deserved after the season-closing victory over Nebraska, and I was overall fine with the region. Oregon and Purdue are solid teams but in my opinion, they don't have the high-end potential of Texas, Stanford, and Louisville. Not an easy road to the Final Four, but not the scariest either. -Evan Schmid

Wisconsin was able to handle Jackson State and Miami in the first two rounds last weekend. What did you like most from this team in those two rounds?

The matches never were in doubt. Even after being down towards the end of the first set against Miami, it was clear watching that the Badgers were the better team. -Joseph Angelo

Their ability to block and dig against Flormarie Heredia Colon was outstanding and I really enjoyed watching the game against Miami. -Dani Savin

The Badgers show time and time again that they are poised and determined to get the W, no matter the opponent. They kept their foot on the gas, and through the first two rounds, they played good quality volleyball to get ready for the next rounds that will be a bit tougher. But with the way they are playing, they should be able to push through these next two rounds as well. -Camryn Fjelstad

That they took care of business and did not drop a set. It got a little dicey in the first set against Miami, they seemed a bit lost at times in that set, but they dug deep and got it done. Now the real challenge begins. -Anthony Winker

Temi Thomas-Ailara is playing her best volleyball of the year. The All-Big Ten transfer from Northwestern is finally showing the offensive ability that incentivized Kelly Sheffield to bring her to Madison, and it's unlocking easier swings across the front line for the Badgers. -Evan Schmid

What Badger player will be the X-factor to Wisconsin's success in the regional semifinals/finals?

One of the main key components for winning these regional sets is Sarah Franklin. She's been one of the best players in the country and gives this team the spark it needs to win set after set. -Matthew Lodarek

I have to agree, if she can keep playing like the Player of the Year, there isn't much opposing teams can do to stop her. I find her play on the back line to not be the best, but it hasn't had too much negative impact. -Joseph Angelo

I'm not sure it will be one player, but more the dynamic of the team. For me, it really depends on how strong the team can be right out of the gate, and from there key players Sarah Franklin and Carter Booth can shine. -Dani Savin

This is a TEAM that has built itself to win as one unit. Without one player, the Badgers struggle, and it showed in the losses to Penn State and Purdue. However, the two key players I have looked at to be the X-factor all year are Anna Smrek and Sarah Franklin. If Smrek continues the level of play she's been at lately, the Badgers will be a championship contender for sure. Sarah Franklin is by far the biggest player because with her being on her A-game, not only could they win a National Championship, but she could be a huge contender for National Player of The Year. -Camryn Fjelstad

Everybody makes good points above, but to me there are two X-Factors, and neither of them have been mentioned yet. The first is Temi Thomas-Ailara. She has really been heating up lately after an up-and-down season, and if she can continue the recent great stretch of play she has, that'll do wonders in deepening the offense. The second is Gulce Guctekin. She is a key cog in Wisconsin's passing rotation and has shown flashes of an elite passer but also stretches of the GG that cost Wisconsin the regional final last year. Guctekin will need to be at the top of her passing game to keep UW in-system where the offense is virtually unstoppable. -Anthony Winker

It's without question Devyn Robinson. We haven't seen her play near her peak since the injury which knocked her out of the lineup for a week in November. If she's able to return to the player that rattled off seven straight points to beat Arkansas, it would be huge for Wisconsin. -Evan Schmid

Thoughts on the upcoming matches against Penn State and (possibly) Purdue/Oregon? 

This game against Penn State should be an instant classic as the Badgers lost to them earlier this season and are looking for revenge to get into the next round. -Matthew Lodarek

I am super excited to see the Badgers play Penn State again now that the team is back in full health. They had a very strong showing against Miami, and often times play up to the level of their competition so their game against Penn State will be great. -Dani Savin

The Badgers are looking for revenge against Penn State so I think they will have a dominant win on Thursday.  I think if Purdue wins it will be a similar situation. Oregon I'm not so sure about. I haven't seen them play this season and their tournament wins aren't very telling.  -Joseph Angelo

They are going to win both. They may be tough battles, but in the end they are going to push through and make it all the way down to Tampa. I think that Penn State will be an easier battle with Anna Smrek back, but Oregon will bring the heat next round; however, the Badgers will still come out on top in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds. -Camryn Fjelstad

The revenge tour begins. This is a rematch of the regional semifinal last year that went five, and the Nittany Lions will rightfully come into this match with confidence after beating them in four earlier this season. Mac Podraza and Jess Mruzik are as spooky of a setter/hitter duo as there is in the nation. But, there are a couple of key differences with this match. One, is this match is at the Field House. The other is the return of Anna Smrek. You can be the decider in which is more key, but I think UW gets the win. In a potential regional final match, Oregon is scary. They have some speed and athleticism at the pins that could give the Badger block some issues. I don't think they'd have an issue with Purdue, who they dismissed in four earlier at the Field House earlier this season, if it gets to that. But, I guess we'll see. -Anthony Winker

I have nothing but unyielding faith in the Badgers. This team's struggles began at this stage a year ago with extreme issues in serve receive appearing in a match against the Nittany Lions, and continuing in their season ending loss to Pitt. Now, the Badgers have the steadying influence of Julia Orzol at Libero and a confident Gulce Guctekin ready for redemption. This squad has been playing with passion and will surely be seeking their return to the national stage after missing out a year ago. They'll only drop a single set this weekend en route to Tampa Bay. -Evan Schmid

BONUS: Give your Final Four and national champion!

Final four: Louisville, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Stanford. Final: Wisconsin 3, Louisville 1. -Joseph Angelo

Louisville vs Nebraska, Wisconsin vs Stanford: Championship: Nebraska 1, Wisconsin 3. -Camryn Fjelstad

A lot of red is coming to Tampa: it'll be Wisconsin, Stanford, Nebraska, and Louisville. I predicted this at the beginning of the tournament, and will stick to my guns here. Badgers over Huskers in the final in four. -Anthony Winker

I'll add a different shade of red, with a Final Four of Nebraska, Louisville, Wisconsin, and Arizona State. Nebraska will get the edge of the Badgers in a 3-1 National Championship. -Evan Schmid

Contributors: Joseph Angelo, Matthew Lodarek, Camryn Fjelstad, Dani Savin, Anthony Winker, Evan Schmid.