It was a weekend of comebacks at the UW Field House, but not just for the University of Wisconsin volleyball team.
The first rally of the weekend came in the favor of the Badgers Friday afternoon against conference opponent Ohio State University, but the second would reveal a different fortune for UW down the road.
The Badgers were able to take advantage of poor passing by the Buckeyes to win the first set. Soon afterward, however, the home team found themselves in a 2-1 deficit, and trailing in the fourth set 19-14, only six points away from a season-ending loss.
In times like these throughout the season, the team had often turned to seniors Lauren Carlini or Haleigh Nelson to dig themselves out of the hole. In this game, however, the season-saving performance came from sophomore Amber MacDonald.
Using her impressive float serve, MacDonald was able to keep the Buckeyes out of sorts from the beginning of each rally and let the Badgers retake control of the match. What followed was a six-point run from the Badgers that included an ace from MacDonald and three attacking errors from the Buckeyes, culminating in a 20-19 lead for Wisconsin.
From there, the Badgers were able to ride the momentum to a 25-22 victory and a match that was tied 2-2 going into the deciding set.
In the fifth set, Wisconsin was able to take an early 2-1 lead off of Ohio State’s errors, a lead they then held for the rest of the set to take it 15-13 and the match 3-2 overall.
The following night, the UW Field House was again treated to an impressive comeback. This time, however, there were no more late-game fireworks left in the tank from the Badgers as Wisconsin fell 3-2 to Stanford University on the Cardinals’ path to the Final Four.
In similar fashion to Friday afternoon’s game, the Badgers came out of the gates with a fast start. Wisconsin won the first set 25-18 behind strong attacking, hitting a remarkable 43.2 percent.
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In the second set, Wisconsin showed the same fight they had Friday afternoon when the Badgers found themselves trailing 15-11. On this day, Nelson led the charge with the first kill of the streak and then continued to serve Wisconsin to a 17-15 lead. The set would conclude with a 26-24 edge for the Badgers, who appeared to be in control up 2-0 heading into the third set.
In the end, however, the drama of the weekend caught up to the Badgers, dropping the last three sets 25-21, 25-21 and 15-9 to watch their dominating season come to an abrupt end just one set shy of their first NCAA Championship appearance since 2013.
The Badgers simply didn’t have an answer for Stanford senior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, who led the Cardinals with 20 kills on 38 attempts. She played a vital role on the defense as well, recording nine block assists to help lead her team to 18 total in the match.
The UW volleyball team finished the season with a 28-5 record and one of the most impressive campaigns in program history. The Badgers graduate four key players vital to their success season, starting with middle blockers Tori Blake and Haleigh Nelson, outside hitter Romana Kriskova and setter Lauren Carlini.