Iowa State faced with the challenge of Wisconsin’s height and youth

Junior Middle Blocker Grace Lazard goes up for a spike during the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship against Princeton University at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa Dec. 01. The Cyclones defeated the Tigers in three consecutive sets.

Trevor Holbrook

Iowa State looked sharp in its first round match against Princeton, but the Cyclones haven’t escaped this weekend yet.

Before Iowa State can become one of the final 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament, the Cyclones will need to takedown the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.

Wisconsin and Iowa State played each other two years ago in NCAA Tournament Second Round; the Badgers swept the Cyclones in Madison, Wisconsin.

Along with that match, the two teams had the opportunity to watch each other in the first round on Friday.

Wisconsin had a balanced attack that allowed the Badgers to upend Marquette. Iowa State mimicked that approach with a balanced attack of its own.

“We know that they’re big, and we’re going to have to hit high,” said junior hitter Jess Schaben.

The Badger offense is led primarily by their middle blockers, but Wisconsin has solid hitters to compliment the middles.

The key to Wisconsin’s attack is youth and height. One of the players that represents these traits is freshman middle blocker Dana Rettke.

“Obviously, they’re a pretty talented team,” said Iowa State coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “[Wisconsin has] a lot of young players out there who are very talented.”

Rettke contributed 11 kills on a .400 hitting percentage in Wisconsin’s first round match, but with the freshman standing at 6-foot-8, Iowa State will need to know where she’s at all the time.

Wisconsin’s other dominant middle blocker is junior Tionna Williams. Williams, a 6-foot-2 blocker, is smaller than Rettke, but she provides more quickness.

Williams had an efficient match against Marquette, chipping in six kills on .462 hitting percentage.

“Their middles are very good,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Obviously when you’re 6-6 or 6-7, [Rettke is] good. She’s good in front, she’s good on the slide…They’re other middle is fast, she’s a little bit smaller but fast.”

The outside hitters paired with the blockers are freshman Grace Loberg and senior Kelli Bates. The duo combined for 22 kills and 12 digs, while both players hit over .300.

Loberg is another prime example of Wisconsin’s youth and height. The freshman stands at 6-foot-3. On the other hand, Bates is an older and somewhat smaller player.

The senior stands at 5-foot-11, but Bates still creates problems for opponents. Bates is second on for the Badgers with 278 kills this season.

On the flip side, Iowa State had five players with six or more kills. If Friday’s matches proved anything, it’s that it’s hard to pinpoint one player to watch because a handful of players could have a career-night on Saturday, so sit back and enjoy.

“The difficulty is, you can’t really focus too much on one player, because then you’re letting someone else go off,” Johnson-Lynch said.