On Dec. 2, the Quinnipiac Bobcats (14-15, 10-8 MAAC) traveled to Madison to face the No. 1 seed Wisconsin Badgers (27-3, 19-1 Big Ten) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin dominated the match 3-0 (25-15, 25-9, 25-4), besting Quinnipiac in kills, blocks, aces, assists and digs. The Badgers held the Bobcats to a negative .144 match hitting percentage. All 15 dressed players for Wisconsin got time on the court, including senior Gabby McCaa who recorded her first block as a Badger.
In the first set, Wisconsin managed 13 kills and seven errors, bringing their hitting percentage to .143 — their lowest of the match.
The Bobcats were able to keep it close early on — only down by one point — but the Badgers easily began to pull ahead. Recording four consecutive points, Wisconsin extended their lead to 17-11. They went on to win the set 25-15. Liz Gregorski put away her team's first service ace of the evening to give Wisconsin the set point.
Wisconsin hit .520 percent in the second set, setting a match-high while still managing to hold Quinnipiac to a negative hitting percentage.
The Badgers controlled the second set with the help of Deyvn Robinson and Sarah Franklin who combined for 10 of the team's 15 kills. Franklin also contributed one of two service aces in the set.
Wisconsin only gave up nine points in the second set, and in the third set only let up four points, tying a school record.
Quinnipiac tallied two kills with 10 errors in the third set, reaching a match-low hitting percentage of negative .320. The Badgers were able to capitalize off the Bobcats’ errors to secure the win.
Wisconsin’s longest run was 11 consecutive points. Anna McDonald put away a service ace to give Wisconsin match-point before freshman Ella Wrobel made the final kill.
Robinson had the team high 11 kills, and MJ Hammill led the team with three service aces.
The Badgers improved to 23-1 in first round action during 26 years of the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin stayed in Madison to take on TCU (17-11, 11-5 Big 12) for the second round of the tournament. With this 3-0 win (25-9, 25-11, 25-23), they advanced to the regional semifinals.
The Badgers hit a match-high .422 percentage in the first set with 12 kills and only one error, while the Horned Frogs had a negative .094 hitting percentage.
Izzy Ashburn served an ace in the first point of the match and, just a few points later, MJ Hammill put away another service ace. Three consecutive kills by Sarah Franklin gave Wisconsin a 9-4 lead.
Wisconsin scored 10 consecutive points to secure the first set. Robinson contributed three back-to-back kills, and Julia Orzol had a service ace.
TCU totaled a match-high 13 errors in the second set. TCU went up 6-5 until Wisconsin pulled ahead 15-6, with five points coming from TCU errors.
The Badgers earned the final five points to win the second set 25-11. Franklin put away a kill, followed by a Hammill service ace and a kill from Orzol finished the set.
The Horned Frogs kept the final set close with eight ties early on. They put up 18 kills and improved their hitting percentage to .364. The Badgers managed to take a 12-9 lead, but TCU battled to stay in the game.
The teams exchanged points until Wisconsin led 20-16. TCU had two service errors before Franklin recorded a kill. Wisconsin was at match point but gave up two kills to TCU. Anna Smrek and Franklin had the final block of the game to win the match for Wisconsin.
With this win, the Badgers make their 10th straight regional appearance under coach Kelly Sheffield.
"There's a lot of things that are interconnected, from our serves to our block, to our backcourt. They're working together really well and everybody believes it,” Sheffield said after the game. “Defense starts with a mentality first. Just refusing to let the ball hit the floor and it shows up in a lot of ways, like how we cover. There were quite a few rallies where we were just flying all over the place, refusing to just give up on a rally and give up on ourselves and our teammates."
Wisconsin improves to 62-24 in 25 years of NCAA tournament play, and they extend their win streak to 20. Set in 2014, their longest streak record is 22 match wins.
Wisconsin hosts the NCAA regional matches on Thursday and Saturday. The Badgers face off against 11th-ranked Penn State, while No. 6 Pittsburgh challenges No. 12 Florida at the UW Field House. Each semi-final winner will advance to the regional championship game on Saturday.