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Friday, March 01, 2024

Wisconsin upsets No. 1 Nebraska in national title rematch

In front of a sold out crowd, Wisconsin snapped Nebraska’s 10-game win streak in just three sets. The tensions were high heading into this match as the last time these two teams faced each other was the 2021 NCAA National Championship, in which the Badg

The Nebraska Cornhuskers just recently claimed the No. 1 spot in the nation over Texas, heading into the match with an 18-1 overall record and 10-0 in the Big Ten. Nebraska is the toughest and highest ranked competition the Wisconsin Badgers have faced this season, but not only did Wisconsin get the win — they managed to do it in three sets, 25-23, 25-23, 25-18. These two teams are now tied for first in the Big Ten at 10-1 alongside Ohio State. 

The Cornhuskers took an early 7-3 lead in the first set, capitalizing off a few Badger errors and four kills, with Whitney Lauenstein recording three. Wisconsin totaled eight kills and a service ace in their first 10 points, which enabled them to tie the game at 10. Keeping up their momentum, they took the next six of 10 points from Nebraska, which gave them an 18-14 cushion. However, the set was far from over as the Cornhuskers fought their way back to be within one point, 20-19. 

Nebraska’s Madi Kubik service error put Wisconsin within four points of winning the first set. The Badgers managed to make it 24-21, but it took a few points before they could secure the win, 25-23. Izzy Ashburn set up her 11th helper of the set perfectly for Sarah Franklin to give Wisconsin the final point – her sixth kill of the game. 

While the Badgers had a lower hitting percentage (.196) than the Cornhuskers (.205), their offense put away more kills (17). 

In the second set, Wisconsin held Nebraska to a .07 hitting percentage, although their own hitting percentage dropped to .122. Both teams felt the pressure as each had their match-high in errors. 

Franklin was dominant on Wisconsin’s offense with a match-high 21 kills. She led the Badgers at the start of the second set with four kills of Wisconsin’s first nine points. 

Two points later for Wisconsin, Franklin began the Badgers’ seven point streak with a kill. This was followed by Nebraska’s four back-to-back errors, a service ace by Izzy Ashburn and finished with a Danielle Hart kill. 

This put the Badgers up 17-7. They gradually added four more points with four more Franklin kills. The outside hitter totaled nine kills, almost half of Wisconsin’s points.

Then, Nebraska went on a streak of their own. They were losing 12-22 but recorded eight consecutive points to bring them within two, which was followed by a Wisconsin kill from Jade Demps. Nebraska fought back to add three more points, tying the set at 23.

Wisconsin managed the last two points with blocks by Julia Orzol and Hart, followed by Hart and Devyn Robinson. The Badgers took the second set 25-23, leading the match 2-0.

The beginning of the third set was back and forth, consisting of six ties and five lead changes until Wisconsin pulled ahead. With two service aces by Ashburn, the Badgers took the lead 10-8. A point later, Wisconsin added to their 10-9 lead by recording six consecutive points. They increased their lead again 19-10 with another Franklin kill, a service ace from Gulce Guctekin and an attack error by Nebraska. Guctekin gave Wisconsin their third service ace of the set. 

The Cornhuskers started to claw their way back towards the end of the set to get within four points. With the Badgers leading 21-16, they took the next four of six points to secure the win. Two kills from Hart gave the Badgers their final two points, both helpers by Ashburn. 

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"That was a good team effort. Tonight going into it, we talked about balancing aggression and patience, and I thought we did a really really good job of that,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said following the match. “I thought we defended well in transition and turned the digs into points. And that was a lot of blocks that Dan [Hart] came up with and an awful lot of kills that [Sarah Franklin] had tonight. It was a good team win.”

Wisconsin improves their win streak to nine as they also won their ninth-straight match over Nebraska and recorded their 10th straight Big Ten win at home. More impressively, the last three times Wisconsin has faced a No. 1 ranked team in the country, they have come out on top. They previously defeated No. 1 Louisville in the 2021 NCAA National Semifinals and No. 1 Baylor in the 2019 NCAA National Semifinals. 

The Badgers challenge their third straight ranked team with another home-crowd sell out, as they prepare to face No. 9 Minnesota on Saturday Oct. 29 at 5:30 p.m. in the UW Field House. 

The last time these two teams went head to head was at the 2021 NCAA National Quarterfinals. Wisconsin took the win in three straight sets at home, 25-18, 26-24, 25-22. 

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