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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Wisconsin volleyball season ends following 3-1 loss to Texas

The Badgers returned to the Final Four but were outclassed by the Texas Longhorns on Thursday night.

The Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team was two wins from a national championship, but their hopes were dashed in a 3-1 loss to the Texas Longhorns late Thursday in the Final Four at Amalie Arena in Tampa. 

The two teams were evenly matched in the first two sets at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, but the Badgers’ prolific blocking operation was neutralized in the final two sets. Texas was dominant from behind the service line, helping them take down the Badgers and return to the NCAA National Championship after winning it last year. 

The first set went back and forth before the teams tied at 20 apiece. Down 23-21, a Sarah Franklin kill brought the Badgers within one, but it was the closest the Badgers got. Madisen Skinner, who was dynamite all over the court for Texas, notched a kill to make it set point. Asjia O’Neal finished it off with another kill to seal the set for the Longhorns. 

Trailing in a match for the first time all tournament, the Badgers bounced back. Wisconsin used a 7-0 run to open up a 15-7 lead. Texas rallied, trimming the lead to 16-15. Wisconsin held onto their lead and never gave it up, winning 25-20 behind Anna Smrek and the Badgers’ stifling blocking.

However, Wisconsin was unable to build off their momentum as Texas quickly figured out how to evade the Badger block in set three. Texas shot out of a cannon in the third set, using an 11-0 run to turn a 4-3 lead into a 15-3 lead, forcing Badgers head coach Kelly Sheffield to burn his timeouts early. Skinner was sensational for the Longhorns, posting two service aces and seven kills this set. She ended up with 18 kills and six service aces. Wisconsin was buried early and often, falling 25-13. 

The Badgers had no more margin for error, and Texas struck while the iron was hot. The Longhorns continued their torrid stretch, taking an 11-4 lead early in set four and once again forcing Sheffield to use his timeouts. The Badgers had no answer for Skinner and Texas’ defense. Wisconsin lost 25-16, ending their season and their quest for a second national championship in three years. 

Sarah Franklin and Smrek both had 13 kills for Wisconsin, but their efforts weren’t enough. Texas had 11 service aces compared to Wisconsin’s four. The Badgers finished the 2023 season 30-4 but came up short in Tampa, and instead will watch Texas defend their national title Sunday against Nebraska in the National Championship. 

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