After a perfect regular season, the Badgers fell just short of bringing home a national championship to Madison.
No. 1 Wisconsin (18-1) fell to No. 3 Texas (27-1) in three sets (26-24, 25-19, 25-23) Thursday to end their season at the Final Four.
The Badgers — who were favored to win the tournament — lost momentum after a close first set and couldn’t find it again until late in the third. Though the team continued to show the depth they’ve been flexing all season, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Longhorns’ blocking and strong defense.
The first set was a close one, and Wisconsin and Texas were tied at 23-23 before Texas won two points to cinch the set.
Wisconsin’s offense was strong throughout the first set, and the team had 14 kills, five of which came from middle blocker/right side Devyn Robinson. However, as the first set came to a close, the Texas offense turned up the heat behind outside hitter Logan Eggleston, who had three kills late in the set to help the Longhorns tie it up.
After the first set, the Badgers handed the Longhorns the second more easily, and finished the set with a hitting percentage of 0.105, the team’s second lowest all season.
After that, the game was all but over when the Badgers pulled out some last ditch efforts to take the third set. Down 13-17, the Badgers went on a five-point run to pull into the lead. Behind the same consistency that setter Sydney Hilley has displayed all year, it looked as though the Badgers could take the third set.
“There was never a time we gave up or stopped believing in ourselves,” Hilley said. “Even when we were down by quite a few points, we just kept talking about chipping away, being fearless and being together.”
Robinson continued her strong match, and the freshman finished with 14 kills and a .571 hitting percentage. Robinson led both teams in blocks with four in the match. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Eggleston made two more late kills in the third set to win the match. On an overturned point, the Badgers lost the third set.
"Truthfully I couldn't be more proud of our team and our fighting spirit,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “I thought it was an epic match. I thought that both teams were doing a lot of things that were [at] a really high level. We showed our heart there to come back in the third [set] and I'm certainly proud of this team.”
The season comes to a close for the Badgers after a uniquely challenging year. Facing a modified schedule after their season was pushed to the spring, the Badgers had nine of their regular season games cancelled for COVID-19 concerns.
“There's no group I'd rather be going through a year like this with, and I'm really proud of the way we handled everything,” Hilley said. “I love everyone on the Wisconsin volleyball program, I can't explain that enough."