The University of Wisconsin volleyball team was looking for revenge Saturday night at the University of Minnesota, but instead, they suffered defeat at the hands of their rivals for the second time this season, falling 3-2.
The Badgers fell in a five-set drama: 22-25, 25-17, 11-25, 25-17 and 15-8. The Badgers fell to the Gophers earlier in the season in an embarrassing three-set sweep: 25-20, 25-18 and 25-14.
Starting shortly after Wisconsin was able to put away Minnesota for the 13th consecutive year in football, the volleyball team was hoping to emulate their peers and notch a victory of their own. The Badgers took care of business in the first set, holding the lead or playing tied for almost the entire set, except for Gophers leads of 1-0 and 15-14.
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In the second set, the two teams played each other tight, almost matching each other point for point to play to a Minnesota lead of 18-17. From there, however, the visiting Gophers went on a 7-0 run to end the set.
Showing resiliency and fight, Wisconsin did not let that run dictate the rest of the match and instead dominated the third set to take a 2-1 lead. Wisconsin used a run of 10-3 to take a 13-6 lead and then ended the set on a 6-2 run for a 25-11 final.
The Badgers were unable to win another set after the third. In both the fourth and fifth sets, Minnesota was able to put together short runs of 3-0 and 4-0 when Wisconsin was unable to break the serve of their opponents. In the end, the short runs were too much to overcome and led to Minnesota’s second win in the season’s rivalry in as many tries.
Overall, Wisconsin showed more explosive offense throughout the match, but ultimately, Minnesota used their defense to win the game. The Badgers held the margin in kills at 69-64 and recorded more assists with a 67-60 advantage, but Minnesota was able to out-block Wisconsin 9-8 and out-dig them 81-75.
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The Badgers did not have to dwell on the loss for long. The NCAA released the 64-team bracket for the postseason Sunday night. The committee did not view the late-season loss as worrisome, and gave the volleyball team the highest placing in program history with the no. 3 overall seed.
The Big Ten will be well represented in the tournament once again. Wisconsin will be joined by conference members No. 1 seed Nebraska, No. 2 Minnesota, No. 9 Michigan State, No. 12 Michigan, No. 16 Penn State, Ohio State and Purdue. The Big Ten leads all conferences with eight teams.
Joining Wisconsin in their bracket is No. 6 seed Stanford, No. 11 seed Florida and No. 14 seed Kansas State. First, however, UW will need to take care of business in their first-round match up against Howard University. Out of the MEAC, Howard earned the bid to the tournament by going undefeated in conference play to win the automatic bid and have experience this year with playing against Big Ten opponents from early season games against Purdue and Penn State.
The first-round will begin this Thursday in Madison when the Wisconsin-Howard match is followed by Marquette-Washington State. The winners will advance and face each other Friday night in the second-round with a Sweet 16 bid on the line.